Sometimes I have periods of lackluster or limited creativity; authors call it writer’s block. It is quite frustrating to lose the ability to create new work and it often leads to a downward spiral of aggravation, doubt and pressure. It is always a challenge to dislodge myself from the malaise; I cannot force creativity no matter how hard I try. Fortunately, over the years, I have developed a few techniques that have helped me.
One way to move past a creative block is to get out into the landscape and produce something, even if it is meaningless or below my standards; it gets the garbage out of the system. Sometimes I must clear the out the junk before quality can flow freely again. Once the bad photographs are flushed, the next photograph will be spectacular; I have experienced this time and again and I believe the process is similar in other creative pursuits. My mind cannot produce engaging art all the time, it is a machine like any other and requires downtime.
I also try to understand or dislodge whatever is blocking me; if I am worried about something or thinking about other pressing matters then my mind is not free to be imaginative. For example, if I got a flat tire while travelling and working in the landscape, my mind would be focused on fixing the flat, not on creating new photographs. Some things are unavoidable and I do not get upset if I am preoccupied; I trust myself, if I am spending mental energy on something then it must be important.
When I am devoid of creativity, I remind myself that the photograph does not make itself; photographs come from within me and are created through my efforts. Of course, the landscape has a myriad of perspectives and creative aspects, however, it is up to me to see them; if I do not observe them, then they do not exist. Seeing is not done with my eyes; my eyes merely collect light and transfer the information to my brain. My mind either ignores the input or focuses on what catches its attention.
It is also important to look at what I am producing during a creative block. What are the photographs of? Is there a common theme? Do the uninspiring images say something about what is going on inside of me? What are they a reflection of? Are the photographs decent, however, I do not like them? Asking these questions gives me a glimpse into myself.
Sometimes I just need to step away and take a break; there are other forms of creativity – I enjoy writing for example – that may not be blocked. Alternative creative pursuits can ignite new ideas. Revisiting a spark that launched previous bursts of creativity may help too, however, in my experience, they can be elusive; I prefer not to relive the past or duplicate successful photographs; I prefer moving forward.
Creative blocks are difficult to overcome; I put a lot of pressure on myself and by doing so, I often make things worse. To ease the tension, it helps to forgive myself and accept that I need to be where I am to get to where I am going.