Hello wonderful pals!
We all get stuck sometimes. It's a pretty common ailment of making something. Putting your heart and soul into a project, whatever it is, can be super rewarding and satisfying but also super tiring and scary. It can take all my brain power just to write a few words, because getting started is, at least to me, the hardest bit.
I've been stuck more than once while writing Oh Brother but luckily I've also been able to get unstuck too. Sometimes with help from other people and sometimes by just waiting around for my brain to let me back in on the project. And the bigger the project, the more chances you have to get stuck!
Of course once you're on a roll, then it feels good. You're working hard everyday, making great headway, nothing can stop you and then, BAM. You're stuck again. On a plot point or style choice or something stupid that doesn't even mean anything but you just can't get it out of your head.
I'm currently writing part three of my book, and the written script part of the process (before I start digging into the drawings) is the hardest for me. For a few months now I've been in this limbo space, flipping between productivity and slump. Seeing how I was feeling, a good friend of mine recommended and gifted me a book. This book was:
I have been enjoying reading Elizabeth Gilbert's views on creativity and I would also recommend this book for any creative thinking person (or any person tbh). I was particularly grabbed by her writings about curiosity. Gilbert writes that curiosity is accessible to everyone, contrasting it to passion (which feels more specific, unattainable and somewhere over there). Curiosity, however, says Gilbert, only asks one question: "Is there anything you're interested in?"
And Gilbert's thoughts about curiosity were able to capture some of the feelings that have been floating around my brain and helped me to bring them to the forefront and crystallise them.
So I've been thinking that curiosity care is something that we all need to start doing. Let our curiosity take us to places we didn't know that we were interested in. Give it the time to stare in wide-eyed wonder, gasp at new knowledge and walk down a different path. It may feel like you're taking the long road to get back to your project, and you probably are, but it's going to be a pretty great trip and if you don't take it maybe you won't get back to your project at all.
Being curious can come in many different shapes and forms. You don't have to be learning about something new to be curious about the world. And a lot of my curiosity comes from stopping and thinking about something I already know pretty well and trying to think about it in a different way.
A lot of the time I just want to get my brain out of all the To Do lists I've written and just thinking about anything else. So here are a few things I use to help me get my brain cogs off lists and relax enough to let the world in.
Yes, yes, we all know that I, someone who categorises and labels her dried leafy mixes into individual specially bought plastic containers, really likes tea. But I think sometimes I forget some of the reasons why I really like tea. I love the waiting for the kettle to boil, picking out the right tea for the moment, picking out the right cup for your feels, breathing in the steam of the hot water, smelling your tea choice and sitting with it. Not doing anything but sitting with your tea.
Picking the right tea for the moment can be hard but I think it's important. I get easily stuck on whichever tea I normally choose to drink in the morning, with my lunch or just before bed. So one thing I like to do when I'm in a slump is to try different teas at the 'wrong' time of day. Here are some of the teas I have made and their magical properties.
2. A different point of view
I have found that sitting in chairs all day can be pretty tiring, particularly if you are staring at a screen all day too. So if I don't have time to leave the studio, I like to eat my lunch on the ground by my desk. I enjoy seeing the world from a view I spent a lot of my childhood, well, viewing. Also lying on the ground and looking up to the ceiling and just letting your mind wander can be really great. I find it really hard to let my mind wander on anything other than making lists of things I need to get done, but I do manage it sometimes.
Walking has been one of the biggest things in the past 12 months that I've discovered really helps me to think through tough spots in stories or mental blocks. A lot of my a-ha moments are when I'm walking or swimming laps. This is because if I do it long enough I get over that natural brain reaction of making lists in my head and move onto other things that must have been lurking in there but have been hidden by all those To Do lists.
I personally like to look up at the skyline and the clouds when walking. The sky is endlessly fascinating to me. I will never be able to capture in my illustration a cloud the way I see it in real life, and that is so intriguing and mysterious to me, like a 40s noir film.
Something that I've been trying get myself back into is reading more. I know I read a bit but not as much as I would like or think I should. I often think that if I'm reading I could be drawing instead. But you see it's actually okay to consume things too, you don't just have to create! Crazy, I know, but it's something that I'm trying to come to terms with. And if I don't consume other media it won't be able to inform my own work and help me to grow as an artist. So when I'm feeling like my brain is sludge and writing just one more email will make me cry or everything I've been drawing lately has been coming out just not quite that minimum level I'm used to, I'm trying to get myself to read a book or a comic. And then I'm working on not feeling guilty about it.
The last thing I do when I'm in a bit of a rut is draw stuff I know I can draw. Stuff I like. Usually for me this means drawing my bag and all of its contents. But it can extend to drawing ladies in styles of clothes I would like to trial wearing. Or skulls. I quite like drawing skulls. This gives me the feeling that I've actually drawn something that day and it usually doesn't look terrible.
Even though I think taking a break or letting your curiosity take over for a while is good and necessary, my personal little motto, that I say to myself at least once a day, is:
The only thing that will make you feel better about the work is doing the work.
The only times I have felt like I'm on top of my project, that I'm making actually physical, tangible headway, is when I've done something. And it doesn't even have to be a big bit of something. In fact, I'm a big fan of the chip away every day. But it's when I do something that I feel the best.
ANYWAY. This post is waaaaay too long so I will stop (plus this post has been in my drafts for months and I've already had to write and re-write it a few times. It's time for me to cut it off and focus on some new blog posts).
Have a stellar dream tonight. One that you remember really clearly the next day. One that you can still talk about in years to come.
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