I was a blocked creative for most of my life. As a child, when I saw classmates who could draw or play the guitar I felt envious of their ability. I saw myself as an uncreative schmuck, I believed it was my lot in life to focus on technical skills rather than develop any creative (artistic) talents.
It didn’t have to be that way.
This article is going to show you how to unblock your creativity.
I have dedicated the last few years of my life convincing myself that I am a creative person. It hasn’t been easy, I am rewriting decades-worth of negative conditioning. It has been a supremely empowering experience.
I am now sharing what I have learned with you, as well as my recent experience in working with Julia Cameron’s creative recovery course, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity”.
If you feel like there’s a creative force within you which seeks expression but have struggled to release it and want to learn how then this article is for you
What Is Blocked Creativity?
We have to start at the beginning, by defining what blocked creativity is, exactly.
Creativity is human nature. Ever since our species arrived on this Earth we have been creating in order to thrive. Being human means being creative. There is no such thing as an uncreative human.
We are one with the universe and our creativity is how we flow through the unified phenomenon we are all a part of. Free-flowing, abundant, untrammelled creativity is our natural state.
However, by living in our modern civilization with all of it’s limits, straight lines, bounds and constraints, many human beings have had their creativity blocked. In the name of fitting in to a system of civilization which demands our rational productivity, we damn our natural creative flow and seek to divert it to “acceptable” endeavours.
Those dams are our creative blocks. They are the “shoulds” we fill our lives with. “I want to write poetry and read it on a stage, but I should go to college and become an engineer”. “I long to play music in front of an audience, but I “should” become an accountant to make the big bucks.” “Writing calls to me, but I “should” get a degree in science to secure a safe, high-paying job.”
Whenever we feel like doing something creative but instead convince ourselves we should do something else, that is our creative block manifesting itself. Many human beings live their whole lives in a state of creative blockage; looking for satisfaction in acquiring material possessions, taking drugs or making romantic conquests.
But nothing can replace the soul satisfaction we receive by expressing our creative selves.
I Followed My “Shoulds” For A Long Time. It Sucks.
That happened to me. As a child, I received sparse encouragement to explore my natural creative instincts. I had inclinations to being a writer, but I learned early on that studying for a high-paying profession like law, science or engineering was what I should focus on. Art was not something I was taught to value. Instead, I was herded into becoming a technical professional. I was then so unsatisfied with my professional life I numbed myself with substances.
Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with being a technical professional, but balance always produces the best results. If we want to be truly effective, we must balance our linear, logical, technical skills and interests with divergent, emotional, artistic pursuits.
Want evidence of this? A 2008 study from Michigan State University showed that scientists who engaged in artistic pursuits were more likely to receive a Nobel prize. For example, Nobel prize-winning scientists are 12 times more likely to be writers than the average scientist.
Art and science are not mutually exclusive. They are complementary; each informs and transforms the other.
Take it from a person who was creatively blocked for most of his adult life. When we allow our blocks to set the direction of our creative energies we set ourselves up to living a gray life; a monotonous rerun in which every breath becomes a dead, a ticking clock marking the passing of time towards our grave.
Therefore, dissolving our creative blocks is a wonderfully empowering thing to do. It’s a noble activity which takes us through valleys of the unknown, down ditches of emotional turmoil and up mountains of creative achievement.
It’s not an easy task. But it’s so so worth it.
But how to know if you have creative blocks to begin with?
How Do You Know If You Have Artist’s Block?
Keep in mind, everyone is blocked to some degree or another. Even creatively successful people have blocks. This is nothing to worry about, part of the fun of being alive is to continuously discover new realms of our identity. Ceaseless self-discovery transforms life into a never-ending adventure.
How does that sound to you? Does it scare you? Or does it thrill you? Or maybe something in between?
Creative blocks are unconscious. Without our being aware of it, they set our energies into predictable, repetitive patterns which constitute the milieu of our lives. We are completely used to our blocks directing the course of our creativity. Like a dammed river.
Therefore, the only way we can begin clearing our unconscious creative blocks is to make them conscious. By shining the light of consciousness on the blocks they begin to loosen, eventually breaking down and allowing our natural abundant creative energies to flow.
This unblocking process can be emotionally charged. Like a river tearing down a dam.
We will now go into the process for reclaiming our creativity set out by Julia Cameron. It’s safe, it’s gentle and it has a 30-year track record of proven effectiveness.
Meet Julia Cameron, Author Of “The Artist’s Way”
Julia Cameron is a bestselling author who teaches people how to unblock their creativity. Her work is based on “The Artist’s Way” a book she published in 1992 based on her own experiences of being a blocked creative and the path she followed to unblock herself.
“The Artists Way” is the distillation of Cameron’s creative healing process. The way Cameron tells it, the 70s found her caught in a downward spiral. She could only write when she was drunk. According to her unconscious beliefs, drinking alcohol and writing were hand in glove.
That was her block.
As it happens to all of us when caught in self-destructive cycles (read mine here), Cameron eventually reached a point where her creative life and her block could no longer coexist. It was one or the other. One would lead her to health and happiness, the other, to deeper levels of frustration and ill-health.
She chose her creative life. And “The Artist’s Way” was the result. It’s a distillation of the process she followed to unblock herself.
What Is “The Artist’s Way”?
To Julia Cameron, the creative path is a spiritual path. She writes that there is a natural creative force which animates all life. The Great Creator from which this universe sprang forth can work through us, if we allow it to. By opening ourselves up to this relationship with the Great Creator we allow good orderly direction into our lives. “The Artist’s Way” guides you into deepening your personal relationship with the Great Creator.
The book sets out a 12-week course carefully designed to unblock our creativity. It does this gently and effectively, not by shoving us into painful situations which can further block us, but by taking us by the hand and guiding us into novel inner realms which lie waiting for our attention.
Each week of the 12-week course works on a different aspect of creativity. The course mainly relies on two simple tools to unblock our creativity. They are:
- Morning Pages
- Artist Dates
Along with the Morning Pages and Artist Dates, there are 10 additional and optional tasks to perform every week. Of course, the more of the optional tasks one performs, the greater the creative breakthrough.
I will now discuss the two main tools, Morning Pages and Artist Dates, and my experience working with them.
1) Morning Pages Get Us In Touch With Our Self
The Morning Pages are 3 pages of stream of consciousness handwriting done in the morning. They are private, no one but you can see them. There is no right or wrong way to write Morning Pages. All it takes for them to be effective is that we do them.
And therein lies the rub.
Consistently writing Morning Pages can be challenging. See, one of the ways our creative blocks manifest themselves is in the form of rationalized excuses which keep us from doing the creative work we know deep down we want to do. These excuses can take any form; “What I write is no good”, “I’m not in the mood to write” and “I have no time to write” being three of the most common, at least for me.
Morning Pages get around our rationalized excuses by providing us with a safe space where we can create without pressure. Since no one but us is going to judge our Morning Pages, their quality doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s “good” or “bad” writing. It doesn’t matter if we’re not in the mood to write, because no one but us going to read what we write.
Nor does it matter if we have no time to write. The “having no time to do [insert activity here]” excuse loses it’s power when we accept that our creative realization is fundamental to our actualization as human beings.
In other words, there are few things which are more important than unblocking our creativity. Simply put, unblocking our creativity is a sure path to living a fulfilling and unique life.
What Can Be More Important Than That?
Regularly writing Morning Pages gives us a map to our undiscovered inner chambers. All we have to do is write them. With time and dedication a path inwards begin to form; as we continue writing Morning Pages that path becomes more clearly defined.
Out of the fog of unconsciousness a way forward emerges.
Then it becomes our choice to follow it. Morning Pages are a simple and powerful tool. I’m only on week 4 of the course and I have already drawn something out of the shadows of my unconsciousness.
I want to learn how to draw.
I’ll write more on that after I tell you about the second creative recovery tool; Artist Dates.
2) Artist Dates Get Us Inspired
The second main tool of the course is the “Artist Date”. It’s an activity done out of pure enjoyment once a week. It is designed to nourish your creative consciousness. If we want to create, we need to feed our inner artist nutritious food. So no television watching nor alcohol drinking. Artist Dates are non-negotiable.
An Artist Date can be:
- Going to a UFO museum
- Playing house music and getting turnt alone for an hour
- Buying art supplies and recreating unicorn throw up
You get the idea…
The one rule for Artist Dates is that we do them alone. Being alone gives us a chance to listen to the whispers of our heart. This can be a challenge for people who are used to being surrounded by distractions.
Another way our creative blocks manifest is through distractions. Artist Dates get around that by giving us a chance to be alone with our creative instincts.
Another quality of Artist Dates is that they inform us on what inspires us. What we choose to do with our Artist Date informs us as to what our interests, likes and dislikes are. For example, we might believe we want to make films, but if our “film making” Artist Date doesn’t spark joy in us it might mean that our true interests lie elsewhere.
But the only way to know is to try!
Our Blocks Can Make Us Want To Wiggle Out Of Artist Dates
All of this being said, allowing ourselves time to go on Artist Dates can be like getting a dog to go to the vet. Even though Artist Dates are good for us, we are all too ready to wriggle out of them. Our excuse-making logical brain stands ready to fob off our Artist Dates in favor of other more “reasonable” activities. Like reading the news.
But if we don’t go on Artist Dates how will we discover what inspires us if we don’t take the time to explore what’s on offer in the world?
For example, I noticed my Artist Dates revolve around going to museums and engaging with art. I love studying paintings, sculptures, sketches, photos and blueprints. Anything made by the human hand on paper catches my eye. From a child’s doodle to a master’s sketch.
What do you believe that says about my creative interests?
To me, it says that I enjoy art on paper. Maybe I could send some creative energy in that direction?
That’s what I’ve been slowly working up to over the past 4 weeks.
What The Creative Unblocking Process Feels Like…
It’s like being lost.
This is a good thing. Henry David Thoreau will tell you why:
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
Can you remember the last time you were lost? Where were you? How did you feel? What did you do?
I recently got lost in Mexico, so I have a fresh memory to draw from. I was in a small, rural town in El Estado de México (The State of Mexico).
I took a wrong turn and wound up someplace I didn’t expect. I felt confused; anxiety began churning in my gut as sweat beaded my forehead. My senses sharpened, my mind went on overdrive, calculating and weighing different possibilities of action. Should I keep going straight or turn around and retrace my steps?
The world became unfamiliar; the brush of novelty coated my reality in a thick coat.
I steadied my breathing and reminded myself that everything would be alright. I was safe. Although I remained a little anxious, I was able to get my bearings and make my way home.
I emerged from the experience with a clearer understanding of myself and the town. I would have never learned what I did without getting lost.
The experience of unblocking our creativity is similar to getting lost and finding ourselves. Parts of ourselves which we have ignored suddenly become illuminated. This means we cease to recognize ourselves. Old habits become obsolete. New roads become revealed to us.
Our dated self-conceptions cease to be valid and a universe of potential becomes revealed. Our senses become heightened as we balance between the fear of the unknown and the exhilaration of discovery.
Which way do we go? What do we do? How do we do it?
Unblocking Our Creativity Can Cause Anxiety
As inner roads open up and options expand, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed, maybe even a little afraid.
But as we continue forward, excavating our creative blocks and allowing our creativity to flow, a way forward is defined. And we exit the process with a renewed appreciation of our interests and capabilities.
We get in touch with our soul.
In my case, I now know I want to draw. Instead of reading news, I am making time to draw and doodle. I do this casually, with no pressure, withholding judgment of my work. Judgment kills the budding creative instinct. Which is why Morning Pages are private and Artist Dates are solitary.
We all have a creative instinct and we all have talent. What separates those who are creatively fulfilled from those who aren’t is the choice to discover those talents.
Unblock Your Creativity To Live A Full Life!
I hope this article has inspired you to take action to unblock your creativity. Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” is an excellent guide to higher creativity. It requires a steadfast commitment to doing the work. Only through consistent creative efforts do people discover and grow their talents.
The rewards of unblocking our creativity are greater than all the treasure in all the sunken ships at the bottom of the worlds ocean. Abundant, overflowing creativity is what the universe wants for us. It’s the natural order of things. Opening ourselves to our innate creativity is a gift we give ourselves. Anything else that comes from that is a bonus.
I invite you to embark on the journey to unblock your creativity. Who knows what gifts are lying in wait within you!
Will you choose to find out?
To our wealth and success.