The most common complaint amongst my artsy friends is having a creative block. For those of us blessed with a creative streak, it's one of the worst things that can happen. A creative block sucks like quicksand and is often as difficult to get out of. I've been there, done that, and didn't even get a damned t-shirt.
If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.
Years ago a friend, noting that I was going through a deeply troubling time, suggested that I write my way out of it. He said, "You were always a good writer. Why don't you try writing your way through it?" I told him I didn't know where to begin. He said, "Begin with a single word. Just one word." The next day I was cleaning my bedroom and I accidentally knocked one of my favorite figurines off the shelf. It shattered into a hundred pieces on the floor. I thought, "That's how my life feels right now. It's as if I've fallen off of a shelf and shattered into countless shards, and there's no way to put me back together again." In a fit of inspiration, I wrote down the phrase, "Baaba fell from the shelf today, now just pieces on the floor." And so began my penchant for writing (again), with the poem Baaba's Song.
I went over ten years without playing a piano. I didn't have one to play. I missed it in my life, but like having long lost friends, I put that sorrow to the back of my mind and got on with life. When John bought me my keyboard about eight years ago, I had a difficult time sitting down to play it. "It's been so long," I thought. "I don't know if I can even play anymore, and I'm not sure where to begin." Still, not wanting to disappoint John for giving me such a thoughtful, beautiful gift, I sat down in front of the piano. I struck a single note. Then I struck another one. Then I splayed my fingers and struck a chord, and then another chord. Then I let the fingers of my other hand drift over the keys as I sustained the chord. Before long I was lost in the glorious Other World of making music. It wasn't a concert level performance, but it didn't matter. It just felt good. It would take me another five years and John's death to get me writing music again.
It doesn't happen often, but every now and then I'll go up to my studio and just sit at my work station staring at stuff. I have a hundred different colors and kinds of paper, almost as many kinds and colors of ink, probably more than a thousand rubber stamps, markers, brushes, paints, etc. Yet, nothing jumps out and says, "Use me!" I detest that feeling. It's a lot like being really hungry, looking in the fridge and having nothing to eat that strikes your mood even though the fridge is full of stuff. It pisses me off to feel that way, largely because it makes me feel somehow ungrateful. I feel ungrateful because I have this gift and for whatever reason I can't or won't use it. So I force myself to do something, even if the end result is an absolute travesty to the world of art.
In art, it's the doing of a thing that counts, not the end result. Art is very forgiving that way. Art doesn't come back twenty years later and say, "You ruined my life!" After all, no one needs to see our messes, no one needs to read our misspent words, no one needs to hear our raucously cacophonic sounds. Our creative blocks are both self-concieved and self-perceived. Art is like the family dog, just waiting to be played with. It's up to us to nurture that relationship - the dog is panting, wagging and willing. We just need to put on our shoes and get on with the fun.
We have a guinea pig with two birds on its head. One of them put the rat in the fridge with a block of cheese. They're pretty creative.