This is a new series of posts that will deal with making the best out of a bad situation. Because when life gives you lemons, you can definitely make lemonade. But when life gives you pickle juice…wtf are you supposed to do with that?
If you’re a creative individual, you have probably run yourself into walls on several occasions. The dreaded ‘block.’ Sometimes it’s a full on creative constipation: nothing comes out no matter how much you try and you’re just stuck in an uncomfortable funk. Other times, you start a piece, get halfway through and then have no clue how to move forward.
No matter which one you’re dealing with, it sucks. Nothing, short of a nasty rejection or an asshole-ish piece of ‘constructive criticism,’ feels worse than just not being able to create when that’s all you want to do. But there is a particularly fresh hell to the latter. You’ve jumped into a new project with all the vim and vigor of a newborn god, you’ve gotten right into the thick of it and then…you have a half-made mess of meat and gunk that it supposed to turn into a life. You stare at it, completely at a loss as to how to breathe air into this amalgam of half-formed gobbledy-gook.
What do you do now?
Here are a few tricks you could try to loosen up and get to that sweet, sweet place of completion.
- Re-establish the end goal: This works with both writing and visual art. For a story, it can be, “I want this character to die and this character to parade over his corpse.” For a painting, it can be, “I want this red wet wheelbarrow with white chickens.” Sometimes you have to know the end destination before you get on the road.
- Work backward: Once you have an idea of where you’re ending, think about what needs to lead up to that. This doesn’t have to be fully formed or permanent, but just decide what needs to happen to get to that place you established as the end.
- Give it some space (but not too much space): Maybe your piece needs to do its own thing for a while. Maybe you’re suffocating it with your constant dialogues about ‘what it should be’ and ‘why don’t you love me enough to finish yourself.’ That’s annoying me just thinking about it. Step back and do something else. Even an hour away can make a big difference. And when you come back, bring chocolate. On that note, though, don’t give it so much room to itself that you never come back. That way leads to tragedy.
- Get back to your roots: Ultimately, no matter what ‘audience’ you’ve decided you are creating for, your enjoyment and personal fulfillment comes back down to what you would want to consume. Look at books, movies and pieces of art that touch you. Think about what makes you come back to them time and again. Is there an element there that your own work is missing? Build off that. Just make sure you don’t copy. Then you’re being a dick.
- Write about it: Get out a piece of paper, open up a new Google doc, or just turn on a voice recorder and start talking it out. Be frank and open with yourself about your goals for the piece that’s giving you problems. Ask yourself why you got into it in the first place. What was the ideal scenario for after it was finished? What scenes did you really want to show? Where is your life going? Actually, keep that last one for another project entirely otherwise you might be stuck there all night.
Have you gotten stuck on projects you’ve started? What finally kicked things loose? Did you keep going with it or did it turn into something else entirely?