Monday, 29 August 2011
I've been thinking and writing about blocks for nearly two years now. Recently I signed up for Kath Burlinson's 'Authentic Artist' three day workshop, and in preparation, I had to answer three questions about what I wanted to get from it. I wrote that what I wanted to explore now was 'process, blocks to process, fear, judgement, disappointment, a feeling of aimlessness. How to work freely, to stop judging, to develop acceptance of what appears. How to act on my hunches and ideas, instead of not taking them seriously (and then finding that some other person has made a whole career out of doing just that thing..). Also how not to feel that I have to push myself, to allow space.'
Then I looked at what I written, at that last sentence. And I remembered the words in the image above, from a book on creativity. The next sentence I wrote was that I wanted to explore 'the relationship between drivenness and creativity'. I've been thinking about it ever since.
Drivenness is part of the cultural fantasy of the artist's life. It's certainly part of how I imagined my life would be, in my early twenties - as I sat waiting for full-blown, obsessive creativity to claim me and start making me produce paintings in a continuous, internally- and endlessly-fuelled way. Strangely, despite my instinct and my longing, year after year, it never claimed me in the way I imagined it would. I thought about it sometimes, and wondered how I had got so distracted by 'making a living'. Sometimes I could see that there was a lot of creativity in my various different teaching jobs, and later in research. Sometimes I told myself that that would do. More recently, however, after my body pulled me kicking and screaming out of 30 years of compromise, I've looked back on all those years not as a mistake, but as simply weird and other. Something that , because it wasn't painting or music, was like an odd kind of detour, from which I was now recovering.
What I haven't been able to understand is why, now that I'm finally out and connected to what I want and need to do, I'm not just painting and drawing all the time. I've been assuming that it's because I'm 'blocked'.
Could it be that there actually is no block at all - that I have simply falled into an old habit of forcing, of expecting results, of thinking that I have to make things happen, now?
Looking back over those years once again, I see an endless stream of creativity which, because of the constraints of employers and deadlines, was hugely productive, intensely productive, endlessly productive, six days a week, year after year. For 30 years. Folders full of lesson plans, filing cabinents full of module overviews and lecture notes, more and more journal articles appearing. Image banks of paintings and photographs (I once designed an introductory unit on Hinduism for an Access course, twice over, which taught basic Indian Philosophy via a chronology of miniature paintings and anthropological videos...). Box-files full of slides and talks. And all with pretty much never a pause, never a breath, much less a returning to the well. I've grown so used to moulding and pushing and shaping and responding and scheming.
Perhaps where I am is not sitting in the middle of a block at all, but simply a contented nothing. Set-aside. Learning to breathe again. Blinking in wonder at a world that might not have to be worked on all the time. These last few days I've stopped feeling a vague unease that my painting rythm has been quite broken since July. Released myself, just a little, from that old habit of pushing from the inside; the habit of noticing any a tiny throb of life and immediately feeling I have to fan it into a product. Just letting colour shape itself from time to time in my journal however it feels like it.
Over a year ago, I tried an experiment of 'stopping', vaguely aware that my mind, my desires, my intentions, seemed to somehow be getting in the way of something that was trying to happen. Jim wrote, at the time, that if you stop all the interactions, what's likely to happen is a great fat nothing, which I later agreed with, in terms of complexity and emergence (no interactions, no emergence..). But perhaps it's just a teeny bit of a problem to write about this creative process as if any of it might apply to anyone else. Complexity again. Without my particular history, a 'block', a sense of stuckness, or a period of non-productivity, would have a completly different meaning.