August 15, 2015
WIP, acrylic on the wrong kind of paper. Accidentally inspired by Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Joan Didion’s Blue Nights. Shocker, I know.
Right about now I started typing, “So, I’ve been in a creative rut of sorts,” but can you be in a “rut” when you’ve actually done very little creative anything to show for? I think of Lauren Graham’s Random House video chat thingy she did for the launch of her novel back in 2013 in which, when prompted by someone asking if she had encountered writer’s block in the process of writing her book, she said something to the effect of: “I guess I think of writer’s block as something you have when you’re already a published author, and then you go through a tough time when you feel like you can’t write.” So, really, this three-month period of time when I didn’t work on any of my writing projects save for starting yet another play I will likely never finish past Act one, didn’t pick up a brush and barely touched my piano was more the product of procrastination, having a summer job, and dealing with the insanity of preparing to move to another continent, than that of a creative rut. I did pick up the guitar (yay). But still. It’s been a while. [raise your hand if Comedy Bang Bang has ruined this phrase for you, too!]
As is often the case with anything and everything in my life, the thing that always seems to end up providing me with insight, wisdom and enough of a kick in the butt for me to stop thinking and start doing is, you guessed it— a fictional character. Let me back up a little bit. In my endless quest to get everyone around me to like the things I like so we can have something to bond over, I got my sister to start watching Six Feet Under -- the latest in a string of TV shows I’ve introduced her to which includes Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Girls, Broad City and which will obviously be my greatest achievement if I ever convince her to either watch Gilmore Girls, Friday Night Lights, The West Wing, Parenthood or Playing House. As she’s binge-watching her way through the five seasons of the show, I’ve been watching a couple episodes over her shoulder and I was reminded how frustrating this show could sometimes be, but also how poignant it could be when the emotional beats of a story really landed. And I was reminded just how much I used to relate to Claire Fisher. I’ve been re-living her journey from surly teenager who couldn't deal with adults’ bullshit but was still so very eager to become an artist and hiding her ambitions ("You can drop the generic apathy crap. That’s just laziness. You’re more than that and you know it.”) to budding artist struggling through and out of art school, to independent, brave young woman forging her own path and driving away in her car to Sia’s “Breathe Me” in one of the greatest finale montages ever made, and... I don’t know. I was struck by the way she could have these really productive stretches of time that would almost inevitably come to a halt and would then be followed by depressing, get-high-and-lay-on-your-bed-all-day kinds of creative lulls. And with that came all the self-doubt, the negative voices, all that shitty, unnecessary static that lives in your head every day but gets increasingly hard to ignore when you're not doing the only thing that can clear your head of the static, even for just a moment. It's a cycle. But if you force yourself to work on something, eventually, the lulls become shorter, and the static gets sparser. There’s nothing more to it than that, really. I was just inspired by her, visited the art store, bought a tube of white acrylic paint to replace my old dried out ones and got started. It was frustrating. I was reminded just how little technique I have. I loved it.
So anyway. Here are a few shields to keep procrastination away:
- Find a kickass lady, fictional or otherwise, to obsess over and more importantly, to keep safely in your pocket as a bottomless well of inspiration and guidance. At this point, I probably think picture Joni Mitchell, Joan Didion, Lauren Graham, Diane Keaton, Jessica St. Clair and the respective fictional characters they portray as a chorus of Muses like in Hercules singing me upbeat songs about the gospel truth. Works every damn time.
- The wise, wise words of Viv Albertine, who somehow manages to put all of my jumbled thoughts into words with an added dash of enlightenment, bravery and actual intelligence: “I care what people think about me to the point of despair, am over-sensitive to criticism and lacking in self-confidence but I don’t let my negative feelings stop me from doing stuff.” (from her memoir, Clothes, Music, Boys, which is FAN-TAS-TIC.)
- When in doubt, turn to John Patrick Shanley whom we can always count on to deliver nuggets of (I hate to use that word again but I don’t want to check my thesaurus) wisdom every day in devastating tweets. The latest one was particularly apropos: