The Creative Barriers

The long days of summer have finally arrived, and with them comes a struggle to focus on pressing issues. The herbs have overgrown in my backyard, a clear sign that I’m not using them enough. The supercool drone I got for my birthday isn’t quite working right, and I need to search tech support forums to figure out a fix. And then of course the keg of beer leftover from a party is still half-full, and I need to find a time to get people over to help drain it.

Focusing on the now, addressing the present, is a difficult task for me. I’m a worrier, constantly scanning the horizon of the approaching future, looking for what’s going to trip me up. I’ve become a collector of interesting personal projects – fun things I begin but have trouble finishing. I think that I’d like to do that project, but other more serious concerns arrive, diverting my attention, pulling me away from creative endeavors. 

Later, when I have a bit of time to focus on a project, it can overwhelm me, so then I put it down, never to return.

Yes, I’d like to build those model rockets I bought. I’d like to plan a cool canoeing trip in Northern Wisconsin. I’d like to build that little free library with the spare wood in the basement. I should make those molecular gastronomy cocktails from the Aviary cocktail bar cookbook I got for Christmas.

Completing bigger projects evokes a sense of accomplishment. Pride. A feeling that for a short time, I got off the hamster wheel to create something that makes the world a bit better. It’s a good feeling that lasts throughout the week.

But inevitably, there’s a stumbling block during the process of creation. The model rocket paint may not adhere right. I realize I need some piece of too-expensive equipment for the canoeing trip. I’ll mess up the wood cuts for the little free library. Whatever. 

And then I stop. Frustrated. Mentally overwhelmed. Unsure why I started this thing in the first place and wondering, how the heck am I going to fix/finish this?

The stopping is necessary. I have to clear my mind. Recenter myself. Ease my brain so that I can concentrate on the task at hand and let things flow.

But the stopping is also an opening for the rest of the world to flood in. The kids, the job, the neighbors, the chores, world politics. A hundred daggers piercing my bubble of creative energy. 

If you imagined that this is the spot where I tell you how I get back to creating, how I brighten up my corner of the world, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I honestly don’t know how to do it. I marvel at people with creative discipline. My friend who does a sketch a day. People who write books – while holding other jobs. Flower gardeners who get blooms for every season.

For me, dear reader, this weekly weekend blog is a severe test of my discipline. I’ve missed a few weeks this summer and while you may not have noticed, I have. The failure wears at me. Every Wednesday I begin to think, what the heck am I going to write about? And by Friday, I begin to wonder how I’ll make time to write, and whether or not the topic is really worth 700 words.

Honestly, I wasn’t going to originally write about creative discipline. I had about four different topics in mind, all of which I hated for some reason or another. “Could I write about X? No, that’s dumb. Nobody wants to hear about that from me. And I don’t really know enough about it to say anything meaningful,” my inner dialogue goes. It’s silly to write it down, sillier still to read it. But it’s true.

Oddly, doing a creative thing, a project, is much like falling asleep for me. I have to clear my mind, remove all the barriers – usually worries about things I need to do – and then… ease myself into it like slipping into a warm bath. Once I’m in, I acclimate myself to where I am, and then my mind does its thing.

And then, look! I realize that I created something! Or fell asleep, which sometimes is just as rewarding.