Friday, February 12, 2010

What happens when you're not feeling so creative?

Sketch after Norman Rockwell's The Critic, © 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls

So, what happens when you're not feeling so creative? Maybe you're feeling like you aren't coming up with ideas you like; maybe you're not happy with how your work is looking.

You are not alone. Every one who engages in creativity past the age of nine or ten knows what this is like.

The first thing to do is stop listening to your inner critic. You know that voice – the one that says, "Oh, that isn't very good," or "I can't draw a straight line," or "That doesn't look anything like an apple." It's a short step from "that isn't very good" to "I'm not very good." And there you would be completely wrong. Your critic is not helping you, though you may think that is its purpose.

Truthfully, the critical voice can kill the creative spirit. It will pick apart and destroy your creative process if you let it. It will begin to dictate what to do and not to do, it will tell you how you can and can't be creative, it will edit and censor ideas, and it will make you feel as though art isn't fun any more.

So how can you handle your inner critic? When it whispers to you, tell it to go away and come back later (how much later? Maybe a couple of hours? A couple of weeks? A month or two?). Tell it to go out for coffee. Tell it it needs a good vacation in Hawaii. It's getting far too stressed out, after all, and clearly needs a good break. And if it keeps coming back, tell it that it can't come back until you're good and ready – and mean it.

Then, just play. Remind yourself that art doesn't need to be serious. Just play. Remember the joy you felt when you were four years old, of just scrawling across paper with crayons? (Before some critical voice told you to stay in the lines, or to stop coloring people's faces blue or trees orange.) Can you find that joy again? Imagine that you are four, and pick up some crayons, and scrawl –NOT to draw something you see. Just to scrawl and color, and play.

Just going back to something simple – and trying something different or new – can help. You can play with blocks, doodle on paper, make collages with magazine pictures and glue sticks, or swirl paint onto paper (NOT canvas – that will feel too much like working on a painting). You could make a hat out of aluminum foil. Whatever you do, do it with a spirit of play and experimentation.

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