Nothing grows without nourishment and replenishment.
Somebody asked me the other day how I handle creative blocks.
Naturally the synchronicity of this question ties in beautifully with what I’ve been contemplating lately as we’ve been diving into the Creative Cycle and processes this month in Sacred Arts, 13 mOOns. I’ve been thinking about creative cycles a lot. I think creative blocks are for the most part misunderstood. Absolutely there are times and circumstances when creativity can really be blocked or stifled by something deeper, perhaps a careless comment from a parent or teacher, or maybe some trauma or wounding. Yet this isn’t usually what people are referring to when talking about creative blocks, usually they are referring to the natural ebb and flow of the creative cycle.
Like any natural cycle of growth, which creativity surely is, it goes through many phases, from inception and gestation, to birth, growth, decline, release, death and rebirth (not unlike the phases that Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes in Creative Fire)- there are times and phases for all. It is the expansion (inhalation), contraction (exhalation) and the beautiful pause between. When people are lamenting their creative blocks they are usually referring to these times when the process needs to rest, to replenish, to gestate- so much creative work is done when externally it seems like nothing is happening-
in the darkness,
in the stillness,
in the quiet,
in the dream time.
It is part of the creative flow, and as artists, as creatives, as earth angels, we get to choose to flow with it, to ride the currents of its gifts, or push against it.
I’ve learnt to ride the currents as best I can. It takes practice. Our culture indoctrinates us into this idea of forward movement, of linear progress, of producing, of work ethic. And yet I know how “productive” my down time is, my rest, my fallow time. It feeds the part of the cycle that is more visibly “productive”. It primes me to be ready for inspiration. So I practice listening and allowing the fallowness to be. It is a practice which requires so much space and permission.
In Sacred Arts we are making a creative oracle deck, a portal into the process when we are “stuck” with prompts that might help us nudge the cycle or sink into it. Sometimes what is needed is to step away. They say the muses like to find you at work when they visit but creative work can look like many things. For me stepping away while still working might look like doing something different, perhaps working in a different medium, learning something new, organising my materials, sometimes it might look like taking a nap.
Don’t get me wrong- I still have to work when I don’t feel like it, when I’m spent and tired, or when the muses are pulling in different directions- there’s bills to pay, children to raise, deadlines to meet and life to take care of, but I don’t show up to my “work” from this place.
I invite you to sink in to gracious space and permission around your own creative practice, I invite you to allow it to flow as it will, I invite you to ride the natural ebb and flow and I offer you these suggestions to support your own creative cycle and process.
Tips for working with Creative Cycles
Take a nap- some times we are just tired. I look to Mistress Willow Sage Locket, my master teacher in all things curious and restful for this- she shows me how to drop and rest, not drop and fret, not drop and toss and turn, not drop and worry over this or that, not drop and feel guilty about not being “productive” just drop and rest in any position. Even a 20 minute sleep is said to really lift your overall energy for the day.
Rest, Dream, allow the quiet nothing- it is amazing what shows up when we create space. So many of my paintings or ideas come to me in dreams or when I’m just sitting in the garden staring into space. Trust this time.
Try a different medium. I’ve been delighting myself by playing with both ceramics and silversmithing the last few months. Trying something new has inspired and energised me and I know that each medium I work in cross-pollinates with the others influencing expansion in all.
Shake things up- add some spice to your process, do things in a different way somehow, take a risk, do something bold, create an opportunity for happy accidents or new things. Even just take your office outside for a change, anything to interupt the usual.
Draw for the meditative pleasure of it. You don’t have to be good at drawing to do this (although practice will certainly change that) or have an agenda- just draw for the pure contemplative pleasure f drawing- it will switch off certain parts of your brain, focus others and allow your subconscious to work on other things ready for intuitive creative practice.
Learn something new- Perhaps a new technique or a new process, either in your medium or another.
Go on an artists date. Visit a museum, take your sketchbook to a cafe or wander your surrounds with your camera.
Be with nature. Ahhhh Pacha Mama is full of such gifts for our creative process from modelling the cycles of ebb and flow to inspiring us with her wonder and variety to recharging us with ions, sunlight and beauty.
Watch a movie or documentary about an artist. I love to do this when my energy is low but I still wish to be inspired, to learn, to stay engaged. And I get to curl up and rest at the same time. Perhaps this one, or this or maybe this.
Follow you curiousities. There is so much energy in what piques your own personal curiosities and following these can feel effortless at times and completely engaging and who knows how they might feed into your future practices.
Follow your energy. Listen in, check in with yourself, what do you need, which cycle are you in, how can you support yourself?
Take a nap :)- see 1, it is a cycle after all.