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Monday, October 8, 2012

Unblocking Creative Block

Here's what writer Douglas Rushkoff (over at Brain Picking's review of Alex Cornell's book Break Through!: Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination:) has to say about writer's block:

I don’t believe in writer’s block.

Yes, there may have been days or even weeks at a time when I have not written — even when I may have wanted to — but that doesn’t mean I was blocked. It simply means I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, as I’d like to argue, exactly the right place at the right time.

The creative process has more than one kind of expression. There’s the part you could show in a movie montage — the furious typing or painting or equation solving where the writer, artist, or mathematician accomplishes the output of the creative task. But then there’s also the part that happens invisibly, under the surface. That’s when the senses are perceiving the world, the mind and heart are thrown into some sort of dissonance, and the soul chooses to respond.

That response doesn’t just come out like vomit after a bad meal. There’s not such thing as pure expression. Rather, because we live in a social world with other people whose perceptual apparatus needs to be penetrated with our ideas, we must formulate, strategize, order, and then articulate. It is that last part that is visible as output or progress, but it only represents, at best, 25 percent of the process.

Real creativity transcends time. If you are not producing work, then chances are you have fallen into the infinite space between the ticks of the clock where reality is created. Don’t let some capitalist taskmaster tell you otherwise — even if he happens to be in your own head.


Writer Michael Erard, quoted in the same review, questions the metaphor we use: "... block implies a hydraulic metaphor of thinking. Thoughts flow. Difficulty thinking represents impeded flow. This interoperation also suggests a single channel for that flow. A stopped pipe. A dammed river. If you only have one channel, one conduit, then you’re vulnerable to blockage."

Which brings me to this (seemingly unattributed) article over at Good, entitled "One Way is Not Enough: Why Creative People Need Multiple Outlets."  The writer notes "...increasingly I've realized that for people like me, one creative outlet isn't enough. The most interesting, creative people I know express themselves in a variety of ways. I call this practice informing practice ..." 

Furthermore, (s)he finds that "The key is finding a form in which the final product matters less than in my professional work..." because "Without the need to produce a polished project because I'm on the clock, the creativity process feels more fluid. I explore more ideas more freely and don't feel the pressure to turn them into complete package."

Although the author doesn't currently engage in multiple forms of creativity, (s)he asserts that "Finding a secondary creative outlet would allow my creativity, not my craft, to define me. "


Creativity can be found in writing in more than one form, in managing your life problems creatively, in tweeting brilliantly. Or in trying a new art form altogether. In letting our creativity, not our craft, define us. I can't help but think that would also be good for our craft, "practice informing practice." We who have so little time to follow our primary creative interest will need to be creative in finding out secondary creatives interests, but here's what I think: even thinking about how to do this is a start to creativity.

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