So the clever man thinks, “I’ve got a pretty severe case of writer’s block which means I’m doing everything at this keyboard from turning it over and burping it to get the Doritos pieces dislodged from between the K and L keys to trying out alternate key assignments in Duke Nukem 3D to see if they make it easier to fire the RPG while jumping. Everything, of course, except writing anything with it. Hey, I know! I’ll write about writer’s block and that will break the writer’s block and I’ll find my topic. At worst, if I don’t find a topic, I should be able to meander my way to a full article just musing over writer’s block.” Quite obviously that’s just what everyone would love to read, 700 words on writer’s block. On second thought, perhaps 150 words would be acceptable and enough to break the block.
Writer’s block is creativity block. So are: What to make for dinner. What to build in a workshop. What to paint. All forms of being stuck about what thing to bring out of nothing. Some people do not seem to suffer from this. We call them prolific (and other less nice names when we’re suffering severe creativity block). The prolific seem to churn out with no break endless streams of whatever they do from a vast pool of ideas that just keeps feeding their beast.
Most people, though, are not prolific. Even many of the ones who are steady in their production will tell you that they struggle more than they would like to produce that steadiness. There are effortless days and weeks to be sure, but probably more days of, “What is it going to be this time?” The what is the key because it is much easier in many ways to produce from a direct request or in response to something than an open ended produce whatever. It is the difference between being asked to build a table for the laundry room vs. looking at the now empty skid that held a ton of wood pellets over the winter and transforming it into something. Yes, it can be transformed into a multitude of things—just check Pinterest if you’re curious—but what will you transform it into?
The sharp eyed reader is no doubt saying, “But a skid is not nothing. It is already something.” That is correct so let’s amend out of nothing to be out of nothing or transform an existing something. Either way, for the purposes of this article, it is creating on a self-directed basis. What that does is open the door to things like carving chess pieces from fallen tree limbs or carving pencils instead. Being self-directed, one person sees the chess pieces, the other sees the pencils. It is a creativity parade but in different cities.
Another question comes, “Even with the expansion of creating to include transforming something, isn’t this still limiting it to a narrow definition?” The answer is to that is yes and leads to where to take this discussion. Is it going to continue along the path of producing things out of nothing based on our definition or build on that to a larger discussion of how each of us is a creator whether we recognize it or not. Both provide fertile ground to explore. It might be different if this were interactive with the readers, but the only interactivity is between writer and keyboard, and that interaction says remain with the self-directed creativity to produce something. The larger discussion of us being as painter William Alexander from The Magic of Oil Painting would exhort his audience to be “Almighty creators!” is for another day.
Self-directed creativity. How do you tap it? Meditate? Run around the block? Drink a gallon of coffee? The answer is completely individual. To be successful, you need to know what it is for you and then do it. Mine is a combination of the gallon of coffee and music, generally spacey music such as the current offerings playing from German artist Seamoon which are in the chill, downtempo genre. That combination enables me to do what is common among everyone for self-directed creativity—the act of tapping our creativity well.
Tapping our creativity well is bringing to the surface from within ourselves an idea or the idea of what to do. I approach most things from an intuitive standpoint which means I feel more than think. I solve problems by internalizing them and working through them within myself. When I was a programmer, for example, I would tackle broken programs by running them and seeing the results rather than just relying on a description of the problem from someone. This enabled me to feel like I stepped into the program and it became part of me so I could work through it. I retain that approach even though my efforts these days are more about words than ones and zeros. No doubt that just brought a chuckle or two from my fellow computer nerds because words, when electronic as these are rather than handwritten words, are in reality ones and zeros.
Getting back to my particular combination for tapping ye olde creativity well, I have found over the years that coffee turns on my brain and the spacey music opens the intuition doors. Again, not how everyone taps, but definitely my method for tapping. The question then is, what is your method for tapping your creativity well? Are you aware of having one? Do you care that you have one? Or maybe this just strikes you as too mechanical which seems at odds with creativity.
If you are so inclined, sneak a peek over your own shoulder in the coming days and weeks to see how you go about creating something. You may find interesting things over that shoulder or just a great big nothingburger. If it is a nothingburger, maybe you can make something out of it. Something out of nothing. Out of the creativity well. Your creativity well.