I started working on a new series of paintings recently, and it was all going marvellously well. I was in Flow. It was almost feeling like it was too easy! Then I suddenly became creatively paralysed for a couple of weeks and couldn't make a move forward. I couldn't even go into my studio without feeling sick to my stomach whenever I looked at the paintings I'd started. I don't often get so badly stuck, especially for this long, so this was a surprising turn of events and another chance to dig a little deeper into my artistic psyche! What was THIS about??
Creative blocks and resistance can happen for a multitude of reasons so it's important to be really honest as to what might have triggered it.
I realised that, in my mind, I was looking back rather than forward. I was fixated on the successful paintings I had sold last month. I wasn't exactly trying to recreate them but, for a moment, I had lost my nerve and was mentally holding on to them too much as a safety blanket, trying to work out what it was about them that had been so good. This was Fear looking for a fix.
Each of my paintings goes on a voyage and even though there are similarities between them, the process is always one of exploration and discovery. There is no point looking back because it's already been said. I can analyse my past works and decide what I liked best about them but in creating new ones I have to go forward with curiosity and a feeling of visually saying something new, even if it's only subtly new. There will be continuity alongside evolution.
The solution, once I had gained this much needed clarity, was startlingly simple. I turned towards one of my paintings and asked myself "what do you WANT to do next?". An important distinction from "what do you think you SHOULD do next?". Suddenly, I realised I wanted to shift the colour palette a bit, and this then prompted a whole series of other decisions. Before I knew it I was in the flow again.
Keeping a grip on the games our minds play with us is essential if we want to flourish (in life as well as art!). Fear and Resistance will never really go away but we can acknowledge it for what it is and choose to act despite of it.
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art