We sometimes like to talk about this nebulous thing called writer’s block. I’m struggling with non-fiction writing malaise and music writing malaise right now, which I guess you could call a block. Mostly it’s because I’ve been abnormally tired and lackadaisical these past few weeks, focusing more on trying to fix some of my health issues rather than creating the next best work of art.
I don’t think it’s bad to take a break. I’ve said it before. I talked about Mark Twain a while back. He said that he got stuck during two of his books. He went and did other stuff, and when he came back, the books wrote themselves.
Of course, there’s a line between taking a much needed pause from frenetic scribbling and complete inertia.
I can usually tell I need a break from writing and music when I try to work on a song or story and I can’t stand the sight or sound of it. Usually, I take that as a sign that I’ve reached saturation point and need to do some other stuff, like cook or shop or walk the dog or read books or focus a bit more on other non-creative stuff.
I spent these past few months working really hard on my writing and music–eating, sleeping, breathing my songs and stories, and then I went to Hawaii and when I came back I had to focus on some other things that had cropped up. Got sick, realized that the food allergies I’m having aren’t mild and need to be assessed better, that I’m under too much stress in my life, again–stuff that takes time to get to the bottom of. Those things, and finding a way to earn a bit more money, have taken priority in my mind, are sucking up the energy I had to focus on my art. But in addition to those things, I’m just not feeling it the past few weeks.
I was wondering the other day if the reason we force our art out on schedule, day after day sometimes is only because this is the way our society functions. Crank stuff out nine to five–at least part-time–or fall by the wayside.
Many of the artists, musicians and writers we admire were rewarded for their crazy work ethic. The ability to plug their creation cycles into that ebb and flow of modern society, the circular mode of produce, produce, produce with no space.
It would be interesting to look back and see how creative people we admire performed before the industrial revolution.
The writers I admire don’t make a lot of money at their art (not by choice, necessarily). They create more sometimes than they do at other times. They often take a pause, go on long walks, write letters to their loved ones…ways of coming back to themselves by not forcing the process.
It’s important not to force the process.
Sure, I could force myself right now to open up a document or pick up the guitar and start editing a song or story I’m stuck on, but my edits wouldn’t be intuitive right now. I know that if I fill up my tank by taking a pause I’ll be able to come back to my music and writing with many more ideas, and I’ll have an outpouring of inspiration. It’s happened to me most of my life this way. Can’t force it. Not me.
Which comes down to the ultimate question: why do you create art?
Do you create for reward from society? Or do you create because it’s who you are and how you process the world? It’s OK for the two to overlap. I certainly want to be recognized for my writing and music in this lifetime, on however small a scale. But if I’m motivated by money and the need to feel I’m being productive, that I have a good work ethic, I’m usually not in line with my own personal goals. I don’t do this for money. Some do. They’re called bestsellers. There are only a few of those out there. I’m not one of them, so of course, take what I say with a grain of salt (as I know you will).
What’s your creative process?