Posts Tagged ‘writers block’

R U Blocked?

January 10, 2012

(courtesy of The New Yorker )

Wouldn’t it be convenient if a prerecorded message were made available to artists, something to guide them through the creation of a work of art, just as the viewer above is guided through the appreciation of the art?

Because there’s no greater “high” than spending a successful day painting (or writing or just being creative)… But when you’re blocked, it’s hell on earth.

When it happens to me, I rapidly descend into a foul mood. I’m touchy. Cranky. Depressed. I am so tied to my work, I  feel it defines me. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

When I lose my “connection” (i.e., when I’m “stuck” on a piece and just can’t move forward in any acceptable way), I often fear I’ve lost it — or never even “had” it to begin with.

Had what? is the question. Where does the “it” come from? Therein lies the mystery.

This past Saturday, I stood in front of the easel staring at my new painting — which was no more than an underpainting, in actuality, since  I’d worked on this piece only one time before Saturday. Then the holidays arrived.

Responsibilities and festivities, all of them good, took precedence…I’d sacrificed “the flow” that continuity bestows…and worried about what would happen when I finally got back to the easel.

I got lucky.

I’d been reading Milan Kundera’s latest book of essays, Encounter, a Christmas gift from J.C., on the train the previous Thursday.

What are these essays about?  “…a passionate defense of art in an era that, he argues, no longer values art or beauty,” says the liner notes.

From the essay titled “The Painter’s Brutal Gesture: On Francis Bacon,” comes this brilliant piece of insight I hope will help unblock you the way it did me:

“In his reflections on Beckett, Bacon says: ‘In painting, we always leave in too much that is habit, we never eliminate enough.’ Too much that is habit, which is to say: everything in painting that is not the painter’s own discovery, his fresh contribution, his originality; everything that is inherited, routine, filler, elaboration as technical necessity…Almost all great modern artists mean to do away with “filler,” do away with whatever comes from habit, whatever keep them from getting directly and exclusively at the essential (the essential: the thing the artist himself, and only he, is able to say).”

These wise words opened the floodgates. Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. I was high for the rest of the day.

The Paintbox

April 28, 2009
Photo: Jeff Dungfelder

Oak Creek Canyon, AZ

“You adapt yourself, Paul Klee said, to the contents of the paintbox. Adapting yourself to the contents of the paintbox, he said, is more important than nature and its study. The painter, in other words, does not fit the world to himself. He fits himself to the paint. The self is the servant who bears the paintbox and its inherited contents.”

– from “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard

Antidote to Writers Block

April 23, 2009

From Carla Needleman’s wonderful book “The Work of Craft”:

“The need for success and the fear of failure are two aspects of the same inner attitude. For it isn’t failure that causes the sinking sensation we all know, but the fear of failure. Failure isn’t the enemy–fear is. One learns, after all, by failing. This is elementary; we all know it, except when it applies to ourselves at the moment when I fail.”


“Failure is the beginning, failure is the springboard of hope.”

A little inspiration to help silence that nagging inner critic.