Flow no flow

Creativity could be described as a flow, indeed it has been frequently described that you are only a vessel through which creative energy flows.

"The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel" - Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian - The Grey Tree

Psychologically as we begin to create our brain activity moves from the dominant left side of the brain (the centre of ego, language, analysis, critical thinking) to the right side of the brain (intuition, creative thinking). This transition takes a little while, roughly 15 minutes. A great book on the different sides of the brain in relation to creativity is 'Drawing on the right side of the brain' by Betty Edwards.

This is interesting but more so is what happens when the flow stops and whatever you try you are creatively dumbfounded. There is a mental obstacle which you can't overcome, a creative 'block'. I personally have just spent a lengthy period of time being unable to paint, full of ideas but for some inexplicable reason unable to pick up the brush. This is obviously a well known phenomenon in all creative activities the classic being 'writer's block'.

It seems that when you are blocked you are not only unable to access your creativity, but frustration builds, intuition dips and ego rises, not good!

In this state I ended up talking to a painter friend of mine, Hamish (hamishbaird.com a very interesting website) explaining my issue and he provided a fascinating take on blockages and ultimately I found a solution which I would like to share here. He described the blockage as almost a battle between the right and left brain.

When you try to engage in a creative act and you are blocked, look for the thought that comes up, with even a limited amount of awareness it will be easy to spot that thought. Usually it will be along the lines of "I haven't got time", "I am no good at this", "I should be...", etc.

Be aware of the thought, acknowledge it is there but critically remain aware this is straight out of the left side of your brain, then start the creative act whatever it may be, concentrate purely on the PROCESS not the outcome or the thoughts that come along. It is only the PROCESS which matters the end result is irrelevant.

"Artists who seek perfection in everything cannot attain it in anything" - Eugene Delacroix

Delacroix - Girl seated in cemetery

Remaining aware of the present moment and the activity you are engaged in, the shift to the right side of the brain will begin, the critic will lessen and the intuition rise, soon you will be flowing again...

This may sound very simple but it works, the blockage is fear based and is amplified out of proportion to reality. Focusing on the brushstroke or pencil mark rather than the thoughts will quickly eliminate the block, importantly do not try to 'push' the thoughts away just observe them and they pass. Just because they come up doesn't mean you have to agree with them.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'You cannot paint' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh




James Holman
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