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Matt Hollenberg

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How do you overcome a lapse in creativity?

All creators/artists have experienced this. You sit down to produce your idea or your product, and... nothing. Writer's block, drawer's block, it has many names, but how do you get past it? What are your rituals and methods?

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    Jun 9 2013: As you have not linked any talks here, let me make sure you notice Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on this issue! Some of the most influential practical writers that I have noticed on this subject (if you are broadly interested in it) are Steven Pressfield (War of Art), Julia Cameron (the Artists Way), Todd Henry (Accidental Creative), Mark McGuinness (Lateral Action), and Michael Stanier (I could have that name wrong) at Box of Crayons.

    Strategies I think make good sense for lots of creative people are: not burning the candle at both ends day after day, building in regular time to expose yourself to new experiences and ideas, and getting fresh air.

    Some people do best by creating for themselves intermediate deadlines. Some make themselves sit at that desk on a regular schedule and not allow themselves to be diverted during that time by unnecessary tasks, while others do not believe in forcing it.

    Some believe in building in regular time with people who energize them and avoiding "crazy-makers."

    I know these are more matters of creative lifestyle than what happens when you are at your desk and no muse appears.
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    Jun 10 2013: Hm, my two cents - if you're a writer - read. If you're a painter - visit a gallery. If you're a songwriter - go to a concert or listen to your favourite band. See? For me though - sit on a bench in a park and observe people, I find it that people are the biggest source of inspiration. :)
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    Jun 10 2013: "How do you overcome a lapse in creativity?"

    With creativity, the question is the answer...
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    Jun 10 2013: I used to go sailing. That did it for me. The ocean, the loneliness, the constant demands of the boat. It tended to focus me on the real, while the imaginary had to take back seat. After a month or two of this I'm looking for something imaginary to put away all that reality.I think you can do the same thing with Hiking, camping, or fishing.

    There is an old saying, necessity breeds innovation, or something like that. Switching your set of problems to some simple daily problems might work.
  • Jun 9 2013: Hi Matt,
    you know, instead of fighting it, I embraced it.
    In retrospect, it was time I needed to develop other facets of myself, other areas that I'd been neglecting. I concentrated on being a Mom, on resting, on coming to terms with some grief in my life.
    After a difficult period (I will not deny, I felt an enormous void, not creating any music), of years, the music came back almost organically.
    My biggest concern, was that if I didn't create, I'd forget how. But what I found out, is that it never goes away.
  • Jun 9 2013: As an artist, I do lose those creative juices now & then. And I sometimes have a deadline & sometimes not. What I do when the creative spirit is not present, is sit out under my big oak shade tree & just get lost in the world of nature. That works sometimes but not all the time. My house can get a sure fire cleaning when I am in these moods too as well as my front porch swing getting a good work out.
    It all really depends on the person and what pleases them.
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    Jun 9 2013: Well, it depends, Matt, what is the context of your question? Are you talking about professional artists, or simply people who want to be creative and aren't beholden to a schedule? I'm in the second group, I'd like to be creative, but I don't have to do it on any timetable. Thus I don't have to force it, I simply live my life and wait for an idea to strike, but there's no guarantee one will. I do try to live with courage, inquisitiveness, integrity, I think those stimulate creativity.

    For a pro who has to produce, I don't know. I would think talking to someone would be very helpful, perhaps pros should establish "creativity buddies" who they can call and talk with when the ideas aren't coming.
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    A wal

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    Jul 9 2013: True creativity can’t be forced. When it’s working it’s no effort at all. The more you try to force it the further away it gets. It feels like I’ve got cotton wool stuffed in my head when that happens. Do something completely non-creative until you feel clear headed again. Sometime it takes days. That’s how it works with me anyway.
  • Jul 9 2013: All creators/artists have experienced this. ...... says who? Not me.
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    Jul 5 2013: Creativity implies no effort.
    No effort implies Authenticity.
    Authenticity implies Honesty.
    Honesty leads to Integrity.
    Integrity leads to innocence.
    Innocence alone can perceive Beauty (thanks Natasha).
    This is true Meditation.
    Beauty is the Garment of the Divine, do not stop there, and do not try to capture it.
    It is YOU. To Admire is to not Desire. Desire (want) kills beauty. (takes you away from it, separates you from it)
    The moment you try to capture it, it disappears, like the light of the Firefly when caught in the palm of your hand, and you are left with Pain and Agony.
    Many artists have gone insane trying to capture Beauty.
    It is immaterial, the outer Garment of God, The Absolute.
    Being filled with Beauty, Being Beauty, you are in the presence of God, the Absolute.
    Beauty leads to Love. Love is the First manifestation of the Divine.
    Beauty is the Second.
    You may not be able to go further than Love.
    Be blessed to Live in Love.

    All else follows.

    The work of the artist is to find Beauty, and to express it in the medium of his talent.
    And to share it with others'
    Expressing beauty is hopeless, the medium of expression always falls short of replicating beauty.
    That is why true artists are tormented, and blessed at the same time.

    A true artist is a Child of God.
    He or she is not interested in profits, only in the conveying of beauty to others.
    A true artist is a humble person. Humility is the result of Beholding Greatness.
  • Jun 14 2013: Go to Nature !
    Train your eye to see beauty.
    Nature is the Creation against which all other creative efforts are measured.
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      Jul 5 2013: Creativity implies no effort.
      No effort implies Authenticity.
      Authenticity implies Honesty.
      Honesty leads to Integrity.
      Integrity leads to innocence.
      Innocence alone can perceive Beauty (thanks Natasha).
      This is true Meditation.
      Beauty is the Garment of the Divine, do not stop there, and do not try to capture it.
      It is YOU. To Admire is to not Desire. Desire (want) kills beauty. (takes you away from it, separates you from it)
      The moment you try to capture it, it disappears, like the light of the Firefly when caught in the palm of your hand, and you are left with Pain and Agony.
      Many artists have gone insane trying to capture Beauty.
      It is immaterial, the outer Garment of God, The Absolute.
      Being filled with Beauty, Being Beauty, you are in the presence of God, the Absolute.
      Beauty leads to Love. Love is the First manifestation of the Divine.
      Beauty is the Second.
      You may not be able to go further than Love.
      Be blessed to Live in Love.

      All else follows.

      The work of the artist is to find Beauty, and to express it in the medium of his talent.
      And to share it with others'
      Expressing beauty is hopeless, the medium of expression always falls short of replicating beauty.
      That is why true artists are tormented, and blessed at the same time.

      A true artist is a Child of God.
      He or she is not interested in profits, only in the conveying of beauty to others.
      A true artist is a humble person. Humility is the result of Beholding Greatness.
      • Jul 6 2013: Is it possible to convey beauty to others ?
        What is possible, i guess, it's ' recognition ' ( re cognise means to know again ).
        You look at the painting , watch the dance, read a piece of poetry ... you can recognise your own love/beauty experience, you know it's been there and this is what is left.
        Something like this ... :)

        Thanks for responding !
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          Jul 6 2013: Spasiba Natasha,

          Beauty as Art awakens the Quality of Beauty as Self.
          Because Beauty is seen through the Innocent Eyes, there is no judging, only Appreciation and wonderment.
          But to come to Beauty, Judgement must be suspended.
          Then we are in Awe.
          Life, Living is filled with Beauty.
          If we suspend Judgement.
          But the Great Judge is the Ego.
          Forever fault finding.
          Forever dissatisfied.

          Bless you.
      • Jul 8 2013: Spasibo, Johnny ! :)
  • Jun 12 2013: I do this by "mindlessly" playing chess against a computer vastly beyond World Championship strength. When the computer picks the wrong opening (Sometimes I "cheat" by forcing the computer to pick openings at random and wait for the computer to pick the "wrong" openings; eventually I find one where the computer has losing chances!) and I win an occasional game!
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    Jun 10 2013: Surround yourself with critics they wont allow you a lapse in creativity.
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    Jun 10 2013: Get some sleep.
    Discuss ideas with people.
    Have a coffee and let the mind wonder over the topic.
  • Jun 10 2013: I have a creative block at the moment as well and love reading all the great ideas. When this has happened to me before, I would play with the kids. Just get out a pile of paints etc and get messy.
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    Jun 10 2013: If you watch the TED Talk in my previous post my previous comment would perhaps be a bit clearer.

    I think that what you need to do is limit your options.

    If you're a writer, pick 5 words that you have to use in a 2000 word text. Or if you're a drawer, see what you can draw with only using dots (don't do this too much).
    Or make a sculpture out of materials worth $10 from your local general store.

    It is said that "Necessity is the mother of invention" and I think that is also true for creativity.
  • Jun 9 2013: Creativity comes after one has come upon the inspiration for it. I think you have to uptake your criteria and commit it to an unconscious processing which demands some deep sleep, some neuroplastic growth of mind facilitation. If it's important enough to you, you may wake up with answers. Be ready to optimize that tide. There is no forcing creativity. One has to commit only to the inspiration and facilitate the flows that come from it. It's sort of a dance with your own chemistry where you lead, it follows, then it leads and you follow. It is not a contiguous conscious computation--that is only left brain. The creativity of how to voice it in art comes alive in the right after time and periods of rest and reflection. Computers are "synchronous" whereas people are plesiochronous i.e. we live a system where different parts of the system are almost, but not quite, perfectly synchronized. To me, this is a critical factor that must guide educational reform. Although people have assumed it for centuries, we are not able to teach and learn in complete synchronicity as if we are computers or "thinking machines". We must not think the choice is just synchronous or asynchronous--meaning in real time or no time or reverse time. We operate in "almost" time, and that little bit of thinking is a huge hole through which millions upon millions of academic under-achievers have fallen. Should time matter so much as a determinant over the course of a life? I say no--not if we have technology to start "breathing" time for perception and reflection into the model.
  • Jun 9 2013: A walk on the beach, a trip to a museum, a visit to a hardware store or mall with no real purpose. Depends on the where I am trying to channel my creativity. If I need to design or invent, I type in some key words to the patent office or Google images and just do a quick search. Similarly on Ebay or amazon. If i have to write something about people, I might look at some stories in the news paper, or a magazine I do not usually read that would be common to one of my characters. If the topic is technical, I like to look at some general Wiki subject entries first, then do more extensive research at a University Library.

    Let me assume your creative question concerns music. So, perhaps you look at what the Library of Congress has collected on folk music, followed by few beers at a country music bar. The next day you go to a church you have never been to and listen to the hymns they sing, and follow it by listening to ethnic music from European countries at your University music library. Perhaps watch a couple of musicals (The sound of Music, South Pacific, The singing nun, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are some favorites). I believe using music to help tell the story is a winning combination.

    A lot depends on your intended audience. Maybe revisiting some of the themes from cartoons, the series Schoolhouse rock ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiplication_Rock#Multiplication_Rock) and some of the movie themes might be a mind twist.

    Walk through a noisy place you have never visited, like a construction site, zoo, mall, or theme park.

    Listen to a waterfall, rainstorm, beach waves, or similar natural white noise sounds.

    You might think how a famous artist might interpret someone else's work. For example, how would Liberace interpret Devo? How would Bhrams and Taylor Swift write a Duet for mandolin?

    Perhaps you can use some of the formulas for trigonometric figures in a synthesizer to get new stuff, with overlays and phase shifts to get a new pattern.

    Good Luck!
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    Jun 9 2013: I am not creative person , however at time, feel not being as productive as I want to be .....I just take a break from my usual routine and do some non routine things those I enjoy