Creative Drought – Dry Spells and Risk Taking.

Repeating Patterns.
Repeating Patterns (My father’s pipe) 2007

Every artist experiences the chasm between his own inner vision and its ultimate expression. E.M. Forster

Every time I moisten a paint brush or pick up my pen the same familiar fear sits down next to me, ready with its pre-emptive toxic potential that overshadows every mark or word I make. This unwelcome if familiar demon is the lingering effect of having suffered, in the past, two severe and prolonged periods of creative drought. If as an artist or writer you have ever been blocked for any length of time, then you will understand what I’m talking about. So disruptive were these times, that I continue to live in perpetual, if low-grade, fear of something similar happening again. Does all this all sound a bit dramatic, a tad over the top? Well I thought so too and as the triggering event/call to action in my novel, a work in progress called The Denim Sky, is based on an artist’s response to being stuck in a holding pattern of grief that renders her unable to make meaningful art, I decided to call it and do some serious research in the hope that it would either dispel doubt or suggest a rewrite.

When patterns are broken new worlds emerge. Tuli Kuperberg

It turns out that many artists have channelled their inner diva in response to any stalling of their creative juices. After his divorce and the loss of custody of his daughter, Picasso found he could not bear to look at his pictures because they made him angry. Unable to paint, he changed medium for a while and wrote poetry. Likewise, after the death of his wife, Manet destroyed a large quantity of his work and stopped painting for two years. When he started again, his subject matter had changed. Georgia O’Keefe moved countries in search of inspiration when life events interrupted her practice. And when the right words didn’t flow for John Fowles, he resorted to writing school girl lesbian fiction.

tarot tower

Violence is the desire to escape one’s self. Iris Murdoch

As I write this, a Tarot card image of The Tower, is forming the idea of tearing down all that has gone before to make way for new creative innovation. I wonder, am I conflating depression with the state of being blocked? Perhaps, but I suspect it’s a chicken and egg situation. It is difficult to separate these things as the mind and body are so deeply enmeshed, born out in discernible traces in a person’s handwriting, such as the state of their mental and physical health. Which brings me to some sad, almost elegiac responses to the drying well of inspiration. Iris Murdoch only ever suffered from writer’s block once, she referred to it as “being in a very, very bad quiet place,” while writing her final novel, Bruno’s Dream, which was later found to show evidence of the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease that she would eventually die from. The great abstract expressionist Mark Rothko could not resolve the final selection of paintings to complete his commission for the restaurant in the Seagram building in New York. This caused him to pull out and he gave the works to the Tate instead, before committing suicide.

 

I can always get distracted by love but eventually, I get horny for my creativity.      Gilda Radner

Of course, when the great drought hits and our muse legs it, I don’t think we are very good at recognising it. When it happened to me I just felt miserable and empty and because I can always paint, as I have through childbirth, disease and the hairdressers, I just kept on going, repeating myself and making horrible vacuous, images that were meaningless to me but I still I couldn’t stop, until unable to stand it any longer I ran away. Not literally, but in hindsight that’s what it was. Six weeks in India unconsciously putting myself in harms way until eventually my muse caught up with me and we came home together, chastened, but renewed, refreshed and utterly changed.

Comfort marks   Comfort Marks 2012

Those who do not think outside the box are easily contained. Nicholas Manetta

The internet is awash with helpful strategies that come down to: pressing on, (me) avoidance, distraction or both and in mild cases (is there such a thing?) they or may not help but after all my research, I have come to the conclusion that artists, writers in fact all creative people live much more in their imagination that sacred bubble. Along comes reality in its essential, pure form i.e. bereavement, penury, lifechanging illness, divorce etc. It ruptures the skin of the bubble and reality leaks in, the fragile imagination can’t stand too much of the stuff which can result in a kind of abandoning of self to fate, in the hope of breaking back into that precious bubble…

So, no I no longer have any doubts about the premise of my book being outlandish, lite, or frivolous in any way. It’s serious stuff. I just need to get on and convince my readers now…

Life isn’t supposed to be a support system for art. It’s the other way around. Stephen King

Essential comfort texts for those dark nights of the soul…

Writing a Novel Richard Skinner

Drawing on the right side of the brain

On Writing Stephen King

Becoming a Writer Dorothea Brande

Light the Dark Joe Fassler

How to Draw horses John Skeaping

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4 thoughts on “Creative Drought – Dry Spells and Risk Taking.

  1. How very wonderful. Rich and thought provoking. I once painted my way through sudden grief – the paintings were unlike any others. lurid and awful. I now can’t look at them. Keep writing your book, it sounds amazing xx

  2. Hi Ruth… I relate too… I am the one that ploughs on, having to make, because I don’t know what else to do. Eventually one emerges from the fog… or at least so far luckily that’s what has happened! This research is extremely valuable, and I look forward to reading!

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