The time my artistic flow left me

It was hard, we went through a bit of rough patch, my ‘artistic flow’ and I. Well, I’m not sure we were that great but after a bit of deep therapy we are ready to tackle the world stronger than ever. This is the story of two great lovers destined to be together but not really knowing how.

Let me start by asking, have you ever lost your artistic flow or maybe just your flow in anything? Taking a few days to start, then stopping after a month or two. It then takes another month or so to start again but this time you stop within only a week or two. Eventually the time between stopping and starting gets longer and longer until it is has been almost ten months and the relationship is a distant memory of what could have been. See you later art!

This was not artist block, this was artistic separation and it got messy. There were days and days spent playing the blame game.

‘It is because of this.’

‘No, no, it’s because of that!’

‘No! It is because the sun just isn’t in the right place today and I tonight I can’t see Venus.’

It got irrational fast as all on-again-off-again relationships do.

In the span of about fifteen months I was able to put my name to only two artworks. One I love and the other I quite detest. The first you can view here and the other you cannot. Sorry. Just can’t bring myself to put it on the website but if you’re smart enough you can view it on my social media. I’ll give you a hint, it has jumping legs.

Through this difficult separation, I cannot tell you how frustrated I was and just plain angry at myself for the self-sabotage. I would spend hours in the beginning stage of creating art getting lost in the ideas, writing them down, sketching, taking photos and banking ideas. Correct that, it would take me weeks upon weeks, not just hours or days.

What techniques would I use? Would it be colour? Or black and white? Pencil, maybe? No wait, definitely paint! No, pencil…yep, pencil. Let’s go with that. Don’t even get me start on the money I spent on materials, which was nothing short of, well, ridiculous.

The whole process of wrangling my imagination into a workable piece of art was – and still is –thoroughly exhilarating. I love anticipating what the artwork will look like. Will it resemble anything to what I had envisioned? Or maybe I would have to squint hard and tilt my head to the right to make it appear somewhat artistic. The eagerness to start was of the charts. Oh, the shear excitement of it all! It puts a smile on my face just writing about.

And then BAM! Just like that I would stop. Well to stop something you have to start so I should say, I couldn’t bring myself to start. That is much more accurate.

This awkward pattern of behaviour would then repeat itself.

Imagine

Ponder

Refine idea

Purchase expensive art materials

Get stupid excited

Stop

Now correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure to be considered an artist, it requires the individual to create art. Right? As this cycle was on repeat, you can see that I was missing a key part of being said artist. Making the art.

Clearly something was amiss here but for the life of me I could not figure it out. Initially I presumed it was what people call writer’s block or in this case artist’s block, however I wasn’t having trouble generating the ideas, they were coming at me tenfold! However in my naivety I thought it was in fact artist’s block and I was desperate to break this pattern of behaviour so I asked for help. I reached out to other artists, friends, and family. I was seeking help in the form of self help books (God I love a good self-help book), business books, podcasts. I was so desperate I even annoyed Sam for his opinion almost every night.

 – For those who don’t know, Sam is my incredible partner and for all his incredibleness he is too practical to understand the inner workings of my forever aloof creative being – 

Asking my children was also not out of the question. To which they responded, ‘why don’t you just draw a tree?’ and, ‘can we have a pie for dinner?’ Brilliant, children. Thank you.

The insights and advice were great.

‘Just sit with it and be.’ – Sure.

‘Force it, create every day. Don’t wait for that elusive spark of creativeness or inspiration.’ – Okay, I could give that a go.

‘Don’t force it! That is the worst thing you can do for your creative spirit.’ – Yes, no worries. I’ll keep going the way I am.

‘Read this book’ or ‘this book’ – Oh so many books to read. The list gets longer each day.

‘Try transcendental meditation’ – What? Need to look that up.

‘Go for a walk on the beach, with your feet in the sand and sun on your face. Go for a walk amongst nature. It is the best medicine for artist’s block.’ – Could not agree more, except idea generation wasn’t the problem.

‘Go for a walk, it doesn’t matter where’ – I thought we already covered that?

‘Can’t you just bloody start! How hard is it?’ – Thanks Sam.

As much as I was grateful for all these suggestions after over 6 months of trying to go for multiple walks, to just being with the feelings of, well, I wasn’t sure what and finally stepping into a stint of trying to force myself to create I was still at square one.

Hmmm.

Right, it was time to get serious. Whatever I was doing was not working. What I needed to do was take a further look at my pattern of behaviour. Let’s go back to the previous creative steps.

Imagine

Ponder

Refine

Purchase

Get stupid excited

Stop

I’m now going to input three things that were crippling me. I had allowed these things to impact the creative process every step of the way, before it even started.

Social media and self help everything…

Comparison

Self doubt

Even though the ideas were happening and the possibility of creating something wonderful or disastrous was quite thrilling, I was doing it all with the expectation of validation from the outside world. Spending so much of my time consumed by the forever social media scroll had become my norm. Watching, listening, and reading about what other people were doing, how they were approaching their creative endeavours and consuming everything that they did. This lead me to believe that I could fit myself into a round hole when I was clearly a square plug, halting my creative juices from hitting the paper. I was attempting to create artwork that spoke to the rest of the world by listening to the rest of the world, rather than paying attention to my inner creative spirit, the one that had never led me astray before.

I was so heavily influenced with the type of artist I thought I needed to be. An artist that created for money, an artist that created without the passion for their work, simply to create content for others to absorb mindlessly rather than creating for the pure enjoyment of putting pencil to paper or paint on canvas. I had lost the connection to my artwork that I had held on to so dearly.

The level of self-doubt eating at me had me unable to pick up a pencil and draw a straight line without criticising it. What would everyone else think of this straight line? Was it straight enough?

How ridiculous.

No one else is to blame for any of this of course. The world is full of artistry, skill and talent that is nothing short of magical. It blows my mind what other people can create! None of it was – or is – there to damage my creative spirit. Quite the opposite, it should have been inspiring me. What I needed to do was go sort my shit out, so to speak, and then return with a clear mind.

So I took a break. I long break. From social media, self help anything, podcasts, business books, advice from anyone and allowed myself to truly just be. I read fiction for the first time in ages, spent months getting fit (kind of), detoxed my body from sugar (I had a serious addiction), worked on my sleep problems and created some new habits in the process.

The time away gave me the opportunity to get closer my artistic instincts and to make peace – or at least become amicable – with my harsh inner critic so I could soften the self-doubt and negative self-talk. I had to learn to trust my gut and create from a place of honesty. Creating only for myself and the possibility of sharing it with everyone else, but this was only a possibility, not the primary focus.

It has taken me a lot longer than I thought and even though the self-doubt demons will always be there, I can share my work with the world without doubt and criticism consuming my very being. The relationship with my artistic flow is back on and the connection to it is stronger than ever. We may have some hiccups along the way and a few more counselling sessions ahead of us but I’m okay with that. No relationship is perfect.