Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Invisible Creative Blocks

Do you have an invisible creative block??

Some creative blocks are obvious. That dead smell coming from the drawer with the unfinished novel in it, the cobwebs across the studio door--these might be clues. But maybe you're not stalled or tortured, not scratching your head raw hoping a light bulb will sprout out of it. You've tamed the worst of your procrasto-gizmos, and things are coming along quite well, thanks, whether you're creating in the arts, at a job, or in daily life.

Some blockages to creativity have subtler symptoms. Here's a random sample of hidden jam-ups that may mute your joy, ruffle your peace and stunt your leaps as you create.

Groove Turns Into Rut

You're grateful for your success. But you've been doing the same thing the same way for so long that you can do it in your sleep, and you do (snooze). People clamor for more of what you're known for, what you do so well. You wouldn't want to risk a flop by trying something new. You're not sure you could get along on short rations of approval or money now that you've gotten used to having them.

Bound for Glory

If your internal talk-radio shouts fiasco predictions while you're trying to create, it's no surprise when you lose momentum. But if that inner DJ spins out lavish praise in advance, woohoo! you're flying and feeling no pain. While you're imagining your outfit and planning your humble acceptance speech for the big award, you don't have a whole lot of patient attention left for your masterpiece-to-be in its current gawky faze. You're so busy being a genius that the mundane spadework of creating doesn't actually engage you much.

Ball and Chain

You have the discipline and determination to see your project through. In the satisfaction of steadily accomplishing what you set out to do, you hardly notice that you haven't surprised yourself in a long time. While you were keeping control of yourself and the process, the thrill and the fun sidled out the back door without saying goodbye--they didn't want to interrupt your serious work.


Those poor saps who niggle at every irrelevant detail have really got a block (yes, they do). You, on the other hand, are zipping along, making good time towards your destination of being done with this project and on to the next thing. If you cut some corners, well, you were built for speed. You're the kind who sees the forest and doesn't bother with the trees. But did you really see the forest (much less take a soulful walk in it)? In your rush to the finish did you deny yourself the beautiful depth of view that was down a side road, off the exit you blurred right on by?

If you find yourself bound up in these or other blockish patterns you recognize, congratulations! Finding where you are is the first, crucial requirement to moving on. Even Houdini couldn't get out of a box he didn't know he was in.

All creative blocks originate as fearful thoughts--fear of failure, success, or embarrassment, fear of people's opinions, fear of change, etc. And no matter what their content, thought patterns can change.

The good news about blocks, hidden or obvious, mild or miserable, is that they happen in your head. Re
cent research shows that your brain is much more flexible than previously known. It has a huge capacity to free itself from its own old patterns and structures as needed, and to create new ones.

The topic of neuroplasticity is on my mind (pun intended) because I just finished reading The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, MD, a 400+ page tome that could be a good anti-altziemers mental workout on its own. I'm very excited about the implications and applications of this material for creative life and work.

It will take another article or two to
address new ideas about how to clear creative blocks
based on the science of neuroplasticity.

If you want to get started now, the first step is to identify a block that pesters you. Notice everything about it, from self-talk to bodily sensations. Find out what it likes and where it hangs out, so you can see it coming and call it by name. This can be transformative in itself....

Want to watch a Dan Rather report on neuroplasticity that shows what happens in the brains of experienced meditators? It's online here.

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