Times when creative energy is hard to access are so frustrating, but they seem to come with the territory...making something out of nothing day after day is, after all, hard work, and a person gets tired and a little dull. I'm not even talking about major creative blocks. Just the common, everyday resistance to diving in. It's so much easier to procrastinate (by writing in one's blog, perhaps?!)than to face those messy works in progress-full of questions posed but not yet answered.
As much to prod myself as anyone else, here's a process that generally works as a jump-start (to be undertaken while sipping a cup of strong coffee.) Sit, sit, sit for as long as it takes in front of your work. Quiet your thoughts and stare with an open mind. Be very patient. Remind yourself that this is as much a part of the creative process as is actual painting. And eventually something--just one small curious thought--will start to tug at your brain with enough force to get you moving. In my case, I might start to wonder what a certain panel would look like turned on its side, or with a lttle blue in one corner, and that is really all it takes to get me going.
It seems to me that curiosity is the key here, that it unlocks creative energy. The need to see what's next, what will happen. And since curiosity tends to get lost in daily life, in the routines we follow, the chores we do, the routes we take--maybe it needs to be more consciously cultivated.
Charlotte Joko Beck, author of Nothing Special: Living Zen
, is a big advocate of curiosity. She finds that if a person lives moment to moment with a sense of curiosity and wonder, mind-numbing thought patterns like self-centeredness, self-criticism and vague anxieties fade away. Her book provides wonderful guidance towards a clearer and more curious mind. Since negative and habit-bound thoughts tend to sap creativity, it's a great read for artists, Zen practitioners or not.
The other night I caught a bit of a documentary on TV about Beatrice Wood, known as the "Mama of Dada"--a ceramic artist who at 100 years of age described herself as "always curious" to see what will happen next in her studio. She lived to be 105. I'm off to the studio with the thought that at half her age (ahem) I have decades left to see what will happen in my own work.