The act of creating something is an incredibly rewarding experience for me. It feels like Purpose. It’s a little strange, admittedly, to say that drawing zombies and fat ninjas is my Purpose, but there it is. I can compare the way I feel today to how I felt a few years back when I wasn’t drawing on a consistent basis, and know that it’s true. When I’m feeling inspired and the ideas are flowing, I wake up earlier, stay up later, just to give more time to my creative outlets in between my day-to-day responsibilities. And it flows. It’s a tap that doesn’t turn off. Rainbows and gummie bears shoot out of my fingertips. Inspiration is all around me, and it’s as easy as anything to see the ideas and take what I want.
But then, for no reason that I can see, I’ll have one of those days where inspiration’s just...gone.. Split. Pulled a midnight skedaddle.
I can’t think of a single thing to draw, or a word to write. Sometimes the flatness stretches out into a day or two. Sometimes a week. And when that happens, I become convinced that I’ve had my last idea. That was it. Sure hope I enjoyed my creative life. Because it’s OVER.
It’s like my head’s sprung a leak, and every spark of creativity has leaked out. The more I try to stop the leaks, the more I spring. Probably because I’m in a mild state of panic. Inspiration doesn’t usually appear when I’m trying to frantically squeeze it out of my pen. Eventually, my head’s reduced to Swiss cheese. All the ideas have long since left. .
But that’s...okay. , I’m learning not to put too much stock in the loss of inspiration. I know to keep going. If I can’t rely on my head, I stick with my hand. Even with no ideas, I can at least sit down and draw some SOMEthing. Anything, to see if that sparks something.
But, when things get particularly dry, even THAT fails me. Holding a pencil feels...weird. It’s hard to explain. Just drawing a line on a piece of paper feels wrong. When things are flowing, the very act of drawing - not the end result, but just the DOING - brings the most satisfaction.
But when it’s not happening, holding a pencil can feel weird. Awkward.
Eventually, I can get bummed out. I’m officially in a slump. I’d rather just sit on the couch and binge watch Law & Order SVU on Netflix.
But if I do that - If I give in - I’ll miss inspiration when it comes. Actually, I don’t even think it comes. I think it’s always there. I just have to be paying attention to see it. I know if I just continue to sit around and feel sorry for myself, I won’t see the ideas all around me. I’ll be numbed out on Instagram, scrolling through it and getting more and more bummed out.
The only way around a problem is through it, I’ve been told (by a very mean person who only wants me to suffer). So, I have a System.
I show up for Work (which is what drawing IS, at the moment).
I avoid the TV and other distractions (my phone, basically. Which I SHOULD lock in a drawer, but I just turn it face down. I'm not that well.).
I clean up my workspace (the dining room table. I learned to make THAT my "Work Space", and not mix it with my "Netflix Binge Space", i.e. the couch).
I get up earlier, and I do everything possible to remove excuses for myself.
And the worst part of it? I make myself accountable to someone else. When I have someone expecting a draft or a drawing, it forces me to get it done. Even if it’s not perfect.
The only option is to draw, even if it’s terrible. Write, even though nothing makes sense. It sucks, sometimes. To keep drawing, making things that you KNOW are terrible, just so you can get to the good stuff, is not the most gratifying experience.
But eventually, inspiration comes back. It’s impossible to know when or why, but one day, out of nowhere, it comes back. Sometimes as a small idea in the shower, sometimes as a simple sketch that feels good. It’s up to me to be ready to notice it when it comes.
It was suggested to me that I look at everything I do as practice. I don’t have to make it all perfect. I’m just practicing.
I’m sure none of this is news to many of you who’ve been doing it for a while. I still feel fairly new at having my own creative practice. But, I’ve been new to things before. When I quit drinking, I desperately wanted to be like the people I saw who had been sober for 10, 20 years. They were so...wise. Together. So I did what they did, and tried to act like they did. But time, apparently, takes time. I can’t pretend to be any wiser than I am. As time’s gone by, I’ve gained exactly the right experiences, learned just what I needed to learn, for where I was.
So I know that if I stay consistent with my art, I’ll learn how to better deal with the slumps. I won’t react as strongly, freak out as badly, and I’ll rely on my systems to pull me through.
In the meantime, I have 2 more seasons of Law & Order to catch up on.