the first kitchen table: on creative blocks


I have a hard time getting out of my head sometimes and letting go. Without letting go my images are predictable (at least to me) and not as 'free' as I'd like them to be. What's your secret to letting go of your thoughts long enough to let the images in? Or better yet, what is your inspiration when you are tangled up in confusion, frustration, grief or just the exhaustion of the daily demands of children? ~ Joan

I'd love to know what you do when you get creative block. The obvious answer is to just put the camera down until the block goes away but I find that frustrating sometimes. Everyone has their own tricks for reigniting that creative spark, so I'd love to hear yours! ~ Sherry

I tend to think of myself as a writer first. When words are too tangled to help me let go, I reach for my camera. My camera is my dog. It demands nothing of me other than a reasonably confident hold. It doesn't always behave, but it offers this non-verbal sort of amiable companionship that's much more simple than the ... god, what would it be? The totally hot and invigorating and delightfully yanking but exhausting mistress represented by words. My camera gives me the opportunity to roll around in grass.

I can relate to this, though, and on both fronts. Here's what I do. If I feel blocked with my writing, I cook. If supper sticks to the bottom of the pot, I grab my camera. If my camera doesn't uncover anything that interests me enough to process and share it, I write. If I spend an hour staring at a manuscript and breathing with my mouth open, I transfer money from the credit line and go to Winners. Scratch that last bit.

I'm a believer in shrugging and walking away. Sometimes I flail, convinced that I suck. But most of the time, I don't let a block become evidence of absent skills or inspiration. A block is environmental. A block just means that you need to go and make whoopie pies. Or whoopie. Your brain needs another sort of input until that vaporous, magical swirl passes by you again. Your brain will turn itself inside-out waiting for that creative serendipity. It will make you think you're failing. Give it something else to do.

As for frustration and grief and the demands of family... I don't know. Sometimes the camera wins. Sometimes it doesn't. I think that all we can do is learn to get better at shrugging. And whoopie.

How would you answer Joan's question? I'd love to know.