Creative block: I was stuck in a rut

How I coped with creative block, its origins, its effect and how I overcame it by turning right.

I left the UK on 4th June to land in Oregon on the 5th for 90 days of wonderful company and experience… or so I thought.

My intention was to spend a happy Summer with Rachel in this beautiful place writing and compiling material for The Wonderbook, lazily feasting on the pleasures that this place provides.

However, on landing in LA and completing the first leg of my journey, I was stopped at immigration and heavily questioned as to my intentions. My previous trip had overstayed the legally allowed 90 days due to a flight delay and a mad dash to the airport. Through no fault of my own I had fallen foul of the rules. I was told that they were going to allow me to stay for the full 90 days this time but I would not be allowed back to the USA without a full Visa (I would no longer be able to use the ESTA system).

I was relieved… almost grateful. It was only when I got here and was sitting with Rachel that I realised the bureaucratic nightmare that I will have to go through in order to come back. We had hoped to discuss our future and how we might begin to plan a timetable for everything to begin.

Creative block had struck. It drew daggers and scratched at my heart.

I felt scuppered and quite demoralised.

It has taken a month for me to open my eyes to the beautiful weather, the glorious countryside and the open heart that sits beside me.

And so, I have been stuck in a rut

I have been here before … haven’t we all? The frustration of being unable to focus, to prioritise, even finding a starting point. The constant drag of effort when we place ourselves in front of that empty canvas, page or screen … waiting, willing in to being a glimmer of inspiration.

It is painful and quite humiliating. It chips away at our self-belief and confidence. It forces us to question our reason.

It is unavoidably, unavoidable. Whether it is due to our own expectations or the pressure of others’ … it is a certainty that we will all experience creative block at some point.

Creative block, so how to deal with it?

A quick Google search and there are hundreds of helpful sites, each with a handful of ‘top tips’ on how to deal with creative block. There are half a dozen methods which are repeated often … so they must be true?

  • Explore other creative disciplines
  • Finish what you’ve started
  • Always carry a sketchbook
  • Tap into your subconscious
  • Go against the flow
  • Get a fresh perspective

My problem with the first 5 methods is that it assumes that you are still in touch with the method/idea/inspiration that seems to be alluding you.

As it stands, I know I can draw, paint, write … I have proved myself. I have no problem with my ability. Even if I were to take up crochet or marquetry I suspect I would still be struggling for momentum.

I am staying in the most beautiful place I have ever placed my feet. I am surrounded by God’s Grandeur (thank you Gerard Manley Hopkins). There is so much inspiration here that it overwhelms.

I am sharing my time with a person that I choose to be with. We share so much, emotionally and this is not a thing to be taken lightly at our age 🙂

I have everything that I need that is both good and rewarding. After a month I had hoped that the immigration prohibition would have settled into some sort of perspective and I would be capable of returning to the enthusiasm and momentum with which my adventure had begun.

The subconscious thing …. writing down what I dream … not for me.

And I can’t even recognise the flow in order to rebel against it.

So getting a fresh perspective? Artistically speaking, does this mean exploring a new ism? Perhaps imitating Van Gogh to see what happens? Drawing on my iPad with ProCreate rather than a pencil on paper.

Or is it as simple as looking from a different place?

It is what I did … and here is what I found.

My usual walk, my everyday plod

Is through the woods that trail along the South side of the River Umpqua. It is paradisical … I have never experienced anything like it. The reach skyward of the tallest trees and the dappled light that falls on the forest floor … ah, for another time.

This time, I followed a different path. I turned right.

A small opening on the other side of the road, a shady path to a place I had never been.

A right turn here

It was clearly a path used by fishermen to reach the less used spots that perhaps yielded a better catch. I had seen them occasionally from the porch of the cabin and had wondered how they had reached these places. Today, perhaps, I may find out.

And so in I go.

A glimpse between

Although, it is true to say, the path was well trod, it still required the flicking away of branches and fronds at eye height while maintaining a lookout for the evil ‘poison oak’ which will happily render you discomfort for days with its slightest touch at ankle level. I was delighted that the way was much narrower than the well-tended pathways with which I had become familiar and was game to clambering and climbing over fallen trees.

The sound of the river is a constant companion here and it was singing its song to my right, reminding me of my bearings, gently letting me know that I was not lost.

Through the trees green

A wonder, indeed. Acknowledging my distress and admitting to my being lost … the river reminds me that I am not at all.

Surrounded by beauty and feeling oppressed by it was simply wrong. The river speaks to me always … it is my most familiar friend. And in its gentlest of ways it has persuaded me here on a journey to rekindle our connection.

At once the river

I found my feet hurrying. Rather more recklessly I sprang from rock to dry path, avoiding the springs of mud created by the trickling streams that flow down to the Umpqua. Always to my right, flashes of the most beautiful turquoise and green … impossible to describe.

All below emerald

And I reach a spot where I can peer clear through
Over and above
The river arms reach up
I am called and happy to listen

And open eyed

The river becomes
And so do I

Like a sigh of cruel breath
Exhales, escapes and runs away

To my left it runs, seaward
In its emerald majesty

Breathless and poised
I am found

And peer

And there, right at my feet, willing to spend the next hour in my company. The tiniest yellow crown, startling and without battle. No need to struggle or contend with the brilliance of the green and the blue, just placid and majestic.

Complete and at peace

And I am gifted the chance to share in this…

Daisy on the rock

A while is passed and I AM recharged.

I believe in God. I believe in miracles and beauty and wonder.

I believe I can speak of these things, that we all can …. that we all should.

Whether it is in words or image, digitally or orally … your connection with this is most important. It can not be bought or sold on Amazon. It is gifted to you.

Be thankful … tell that story

The way home

I am grateful.

When lost, there is always a way home. I turned right again and there it was.

My story is beginning to be written … to be told. In fact a friend of mine (thanks, Chris Edwick) suggested that today’s journey may well be enough content for an Ebook … and I think I shall do it.

A nicely designed volume of more text, pictures and thoughts. If you would like to receive a copy by email then please click on the link below and I shall send it you as soon as it is ready.

Click here to receive your copy

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  • Phylllis

    I am so pleased you found your way back, Nature is ….. always/usually/often – always the best guide…. staying with the stuckness ….. well we all know about that! (Ive only been painting banners etc – BUT am playing the piano – darling Sadie has got me doing a GRADE 7 piece of Mozart! ) But – ‘the earth is our Mother, we must take care of her’! keep going on your revolutions of the Primordial Tower…… sure there is lots to tell you, but it …eludes me at present! Happy days and best wishes to Rachel too. xxxx

  • Wendy Gregory

    Experiences like the one you describe remain with you always.
    You manage to make the reader feel they were there.

    • A

      Thank you Wendy. You see even the journey out of a creative block can be woven into the story. The telling of it reveals just a little more of ourselves. In my case it was this story, but it could be the story of something eventful that inspired your next painting or even a song in the distance that reminds you of something from your past … when you tell it and you describe it well then your audience will follow you.