I am just going to throw out my experience here. By no means do I have a successful career financially as an artist.. But I do have a successful relationship with my work on a day to day basis, and it’s a real treasure in my life.
A lot of my learning and understanding about this process came from attending painting workshops that emphasized process, not product. I have also brought a lot from my meditation practice into how I work.
Blocks, large and small, are created by ideas and beliefs you have about yourself, and the associated unpleasant feelings and emotions. Dismantling these beliefs is not an easy process, but the rewards are great and lasting.
I so distinctly remember a deep fear in the pit of my gut that would rise every time I was close to completing a painting back in my art school days. The fear as I identified it was “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to think of an idea for another painting”. This fear seems quite ridiculous to me now… but at the time it was powerful. It turns out there were many components to this fear that I was not even aware of.
Over time, through careful observations I began to notice the recurring themes in my negative beliefs that kept me from participating in the expression of creative flow. Here are a few classics:
- If my painting isn’t beautiful, no one will like it (and by extension me)
- My painting must be meaningful / profound.
- I am a terrible artist
- I am kidding myself that what I am painting is good / worth anyone’s time
- I need to sell this thing! What’s going to make it sellable.
- This subject matter is too embarrassing and personal, and people will think I am a freak when they see it.
- This painting is hopelessly unfashionable
It took quite some time to identify a lot of these, and I am sure there are more. But once I was able to know them, I was able to begin the process of healthy skepticism. Like a sad majority of our thoughts, these come up over and over. Just seeing the pattern lessens the power as long as you can accept that they are there without reacting to them. Doing this is a skill I developed in meditation – establishing a ground of accepting awareness to things that arise in my mind (this takes practice).
Sometimes I was able to consciously challenge them as suggested by my painting teacher Barbara. When I would stop in fear that my painting was not beautiful, she would encourage me to ask myself “what would be the ugliest thing you could paint on your painting” and then, if that thought proved to have energy or excitement, to do it.
The funny thing about unnamed, undigested fears and beliefs is that they very often come from a long time ago, and are no longer serving any purpose. Because of that, when challenged, or consciously over-ridden, they can fall over with the lightest of shoves. When they lie beneath the surface of consciousness they can rule your process. So by paying attention, and bringing to light these beliefs, you can begin to free yourself in the midst of your creative flow. I will follow this up with a bit about working with these creative blocks (hidden beliefs).