Busting Creative Blocks

by Barbara Martin

in How to Tips

Winding up Week 9 of The Artist’s Way creativity program, we look again at how to break through artistic or creative blocks, now from the perspective of how we convince or trick ourselves into thinking that staying blocked — by anger/resentment or fear/resistance — can pay off.

Name your Blocks

For creative people, there are many reasons for being full of anxiety about creating. Many of us are angry about our creativity or lack of it, our creative efforts and failures, the support we have not recieved, the criticism we have received, and so on for countless iterations. Our anger or resentment can be irrational or petty or small — or huge. But in order to get past an anger-based block, you have to identify it and name it first.

Similarly, you have to identify and acknowledge any fear-based blocking or feelings of resistance before you can get past that. (See Laziness or Fear)

List your Sticking Points

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron suggests writing down a list of all of your fears, points of resistance, any feelings of anger or any resentments about the project you are blocking on. Keep in mind that these self-sabotaging feelings and anxieties can be rational or irrational, big or small, foolish, dumb, nit-picky, sneaky, petulant, whatever, but list them ALL. List every single one, no matter how small the grudge or how silly the fear, because each one is valid and important and has its own significance for you in terms of staying securely (and safely) stuck.

Name the Payoff

Now consider how staying blocked pays off for you: what do you gain by being blocked? How does being blocked keep you safe or protect you? What does your block do for you? How does it serve you? Ask yourself these questions and write the perceived payoff(s) next to each and every item on your list.

Our thought process here may be convoluted or intricate but I assure you we are not dumb when it comes to associating blocks with benefits to staying blocked! We are ingenious at playing this game!

Understand Your Reasons

Look at your list again. Calmly remove the mind goggles and examine your own behavior in as detached a way as you possibly can. Notice what you are doing (or not doing) with compassion, but also recognize and test the reasoning behind what you are feeling and begin to understand why you are not creating. Whether we like it or not, we have strong feelings that lead to this kind of self-sabotage.

Often we discover our feelings of fear, resistance, anger or resentment are built on irrational reasoning, knee jerk reaction, old habitual thinking, faulty logic, absolute yes/no thinking, jumped-to conclusions, worst-case scenarios…. or that we have skipped the next right step and are attempting too huge a leap all at one time.

Disable the Block

In other words, calmly and in a detached way enable yourself to get a grip on your mind! Through this process of noticing and naming and understanding, the block will begin to lose power. As the block yields, creativity flows again.

It’s totally okay to admit that you are scared by some aspect of what you want to create, or by the consequences of creating. It’s okay to admit that your artist self feels threatened or slighted or jealous or resentful or whatever. Your inner creative self often acts like a child and may even have thoughts we are not too proud of or that seem childish — regardless of what our rational mind tells us.

It’s up to you to acknowledge the negative feelings, the anger or fear, and convince yourself that, even though your inner artist feels that way for now, it’s actually okay to go ahead and take the next step and create anyway. Once we bring these thoughts out of our heads and onto paper and into the light, their power is diminished. What a relief!

The True Cost of Creative Blocking

You already know the cost of holding onto this blockage – being stuck and not creating. Consider the true cost of not creating and all the pain that goes along with that. Remember your enthusiasm for this work, this project, this next step, even the smallest of next steps. Remember the joy in creating!

Seal the Deal with a Contract

Once you have listed and acknowledged your feelings and payoffs and have begun to loosen their hold over your creativity, Cameron recommends you make a formal deal with your inner artist, in writing:

“Okay, Creative Force, you take care of the quality, I’ll take care of the quantity.”

Execute a written contract as tangible proof of this deal, or devise a drawing or whatever “official” format you will respect. Sign it, date it, and display it where you will see it every day.

Now you are free to concentrate on the quantity and only the quantity. (For blocked perfectionists, in particular, this is an especially powerful concept.)

You can now consider that block “Busted!” — Buhbye, Block!

MORE Reptitude Posts in the Artist’s Way Series

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