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The Emotions of Being Creatively Blocked
I’ve finished up the first week of The Artist’s Way, and if you’re dealing with being creatively blocked- whether that’s artist’s block or writer’s block, I highly recommend it. Being creatively blocked can present itself in many forms, and in my case it doesn’t present as sitting in front of a blank canvas with a brush in hand unable to paint anything. No, mine is complete avoidance at all costs- sometimes that’s being “too busy” or finding other ways to busy myself pointlessly. Sometimes, it’s a lack of confidence. Sometimes, it’s excuse after excuse. Sometimes it’s even self-sabotage, such as using my studio as storage space, requiring days of cleaning and moving stuff just to have the space to create.
This week the tasks brought up a plethora of conflicting emotions, both good and bad. I was shocked to realize how angry I still am about things that happened in my life when I was a child. It was difficult to both work through those emotions as an adult now, but also giving the child I was the grace, understanding and approval to say “these thoughts and feelings absolutely have a justification and you were doing the best you could, and nothing you did was wrong, despite how you were made to feel.”
I was a broken child from a broken home, and I poured myself into creative endeavors as a distraction from my own brokenness. It was how I coped with what I perceived as traumas. As soon as I could read and write, it became my biggest passion. If I wasn’t reading, I was writing. I often- almost always- wrote of escaping in some form, from my current situation (which at 5-10 years old you have zero control over yourself). When someone I trusted took my writings and used them against me, to berate me, demean me, guilt trip me, and THEN to share them with others so that they could do the same thing too. It took “broken” to a new level.
I shut down and nearly quit writing altogether. Writing was something that you put out there, in the world, where it could hurt me or make me feel bad. Someone could twist childhood fantasies into something far uglier- assigning them adult meanings, or twisting the meanings into something else entirely. All I wanted to do was to get away, that’s all. I was unhappy, lonely, ignored, treated poorly, abused. My only creative outlet had also made my prison a much worse place to live. This lead to being creatively blocked, or maybe even forcing myself to be creatively blocked in an act of self-preservation. I wish I knew how my young brain had come to the conclusion to just stop writing, but as much as I try, I just can’t remember. I can only remember clearly how I felt, and I know the ultimate outcome of those feelings was me shutting down.
I wrote about these things much more specifically and with much more detail in my own notebooks. I was surprised at how this was still affecting me all these years later. Shocked at the hurt, anger, and pain I still felt about these times of my life.
Then, I got to experience the other side of it too- the extreme happiness you experience when you think back on the people who were (or are) your biggest champions. I was overflowing with love and gratitude for those who have made great impacts on my life. A couple teachers that I had growing up don’t even know. Someday, I’d like to tell them how greatly their words, kindnesses, and support meant to me, and continue to impact my life, even now.
Being creatively blocked in some fashion is a hard road to be on. You have to look back on the path that you traveled so far, look at every pot hole and hill that you’ve traveled over to get to your current point. Yet, you still have to keep looking forward and seeing that your destination is within your sights.