The Antidote for Creative Blockages: Compassion and Curiosity

Building creativity is practice in being receptive and present. Nearly everyone struggles with this practice and it’s the unstable foundation of most problems, creative or otherwise. The equivalent of artist block can occur in any career, hobby, relationship, religion, lifestyle, etc, to any degree of severity. When we become insular and shut off, we struggle to connect to the world around us. It could be simple and temporary, such as a bad mood, or a deep issue like a mental health crisis. How severe the issue is will be indicated by how or if it affects crucial aspects of daily life, but even fleeting grumpiness can distract from creativity. 

Being distracted is by no means a bad thing nor something to avoid. It’s unavoidable. Learning to react with compassion lets us move forward and reconnect with our goals. Frustration and shame may cause us to interact unproductively with disconnection– negative self-talk is a normal experience but one that’ll uphold mental blocks.

I become nihilistic and self-blaming when my creativity is stuck. Feeling rusty or uninspired causes insecurity around my proficiency, making me question if I’m as good an artist as I thought. I try to avoid these painful thoughts but they linger at the back of my mind until they swamp me. A misplaced line may suddenly transform into evidence that every cruel thought I had about myself was right. 

When I inadvertently fall into specific and overwhelming internal concepts, they’ll pull nearly all my attention away from where I was trying to channel my energy. Art can thrive off insecurity if it’s tapped into with a sense of compassion and exploration, but only if it’s already the topic of the project. 

Seeking out inspiration while bogged down by negative self-talk can seem nearly impossible. Insecurity wants to be the center of attention. The more we ignore it, the louder it becomes. Taking a step back to address the issue and find acceptance will deplatform these intrusive distractions– not eliminate, but steal back the microphone. Rather than attempt to ignore creative blocks, question them and take control. Reclaiming agency is important in being present. 

Inspiration is the existence of your internal interest, it’s the external treasure to be reclaimed. We can’t recognize components of creativity if we’re stuck on specific but irrelevant grievances of the consciousness. There are other nuanced specifics to identify. Inspiration can be sought out in any aspect of reality– the goal of the artist is to place themselves in a receptive state, train themselves to pick interesting bits and pieces out of daily life. 

Creative people often go on missions to gather specific inspirations, but these primary sources are built up and given context by regular experiences. I may go out of my way to create an observational sketch of a chicken but this conclusion came about through mindfulness. Creative impulses slip by so easily. Through awareness of my wants, my interests, my energy level, my anxieties, and my environment, I came to a decision that I could handle a quick trip outside to the coop. 

Compassion and curiosity aid in de-escalating distracted or distressed states of mind, but also in building creative practices. 

“It’s understandable that I’m tired, I recognize the reasons that I’m low energy and why they’re triggering low self worth. There are still ways I can honor my desire to draw. Being mindful of my energy, I can use nearby materials and allow myself an attempt, as there’s a chance I’ll boost my confidence and be recharged by the act. If it doesn’t work out how I want, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. It’s all practice.” Just as we might adopt a refocusing thought style to negotiate with negative self-talk, we can apply this curiosity to inspiration. 

“It’s understandable that I’m struggling with creativity. Stress has been a significant issue in my life lately, and my perception has been that there’s no time for art. Small instances of inspiration are easily overlooked, it’ll be helpful to remember to take any opportunity to explore.” 

These dialogues often happen in tandem by necessity. Internal and external factors combine as a blockage so our negotiations must be two-headed, maintaining a dual focus on acceptance. Does that sound exhausting? The better we know ourselves, the quicker and easier this process gets. Therapy is a useful tool for any creative person. Everyone has a fundamental aspect of themselves that’s holding them back. This is the nature of being complex, sentient creatures.

Therapy taught me the phrase ‘compassion and curiosity’. It was our routine reminder, at every turn I was realizing the only thing I needed was to address myself and my issues with compassion and curiosity. 

Asking questions, being patient, accepting, always seeking a new way to be kind and discover something new.

We take in inspiration as we open up. We engage more fully with our environment, notice more, and make deeper connections. I’m always learning how to better step deeper into my mind in order to better step back out. 

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