Unblock My Art
On navigating creative slumps…be sure to sing the essay’s title to the tune of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart”
The other day when I was scrolling through Twitter and not writing my book, I came upon a bit of advice for creative types. It wasn’t about sitting in a particular chair, or having a room of one’s own with a lock and a key, or using Scrivener versus Microsoft Word or Google Docs. The advice was simply to continue to show up to the work. Of course, this made me think of Octavia E. Butler, which made me feel bad again for not working on my book—which is a biography of Octavia. (Chile). But instead of spiraling into a wet noodle of regret and self-doubt, I took a beat. What if I talked myself into doing what I love, even if it’s sometimes scary?
Here is how I’ve been encouraging myself:
Show up, even if it’s messy. My agent likes to talk about shitty drafts and I appreciate that. The first sketch, draft, or take is often a hot shitty mess and that’s ok. We just have to keep coming back to the table and do the work before preemptively talking ourselves out of it. The world needs your art, friend. Whatever it is. Keep showing up. I can’t promise it’ll get easier, but it’s worth it. Octavia E. Butler encouraged us to persist and that we owe more to habit than to talent. She was right.
Nix draining activities. I’ve pretty much overcome doomscrolling after the Trump years, but is there such a thing as joyscrolling? I dunno, but I do know that I’ve found a section of TikTok (I know, I know) that is just filled with sassy, elderly pets. You would think it’s enough that I have my own sassy elderly pet but apparently not. Point is, I have to limit my scroll time because an hour could pass by and I will have seen every elderly moochie on the planet and I feel like, damn, I could’ve done something else entirely. Whatever your draining time waster is, be aware and cut it down (or out).
Touch grass. If you can make it outside and have the sun or rain kiss your skin, do it. Remember, we are like houseplants with complicated feelings.
Do something (else) creative. If you’re a painter, write some poetry. If you’re a poet, bake a pie. If you’re a baker, knit a scarf. If you knit, work in the garden. You’re picking up what I’m putting down. Extra points if you do something creative that is just for fun, not for show—especially if you’re not particularly good at it. I’m a terrible painter but sometimes I just need to paint. Some things are just for the heart.
Cut yourself some slack. Rest. We are (still) in the midst of a global pandemic, mass shootings happen all the time—we are living in a real-life dystopia. Take the nap.
Love you, mean it.