Start From Where You Are, One Size All Advice For Creativity + Life

 

Dear Creative Crusader,

I’ve been thinking about creative blocks lately. It’s the theme for the second week for my online creativity intensive. 

Over the years, I’ve experienced and worked through a lot of blocks to my creativity and I’ve helped a lot of other people with theirs. I’ve used my creativity, my expressive arts therapy training and techniques from my study of the arts to work through these blocks.

There are so many kinds of blocks, and so many creative ways we can work through or with our blocks. We can work through them on the mental level—questioning our beliefs. We can work through them on the physical level—relaxing the body, deep breathing. We can work through them on the emotional level—acting as compassionate witness to our inner resistances, like fear. We can work through them on the spiritual level—opening up the channel of our creativity to a higher source, and relinquishing the smaller self. 

I have tried all of these, and they have all have worked for me depending on what the particular block is, and my current relationship to it.

But, there’s one method of unblocking that I have found that never fails and is applicable to all situations. It doesn’t require any special equipment or knowledge. You don’t need to spend a lot of time with it. And it is always available. 

START FROM WHERE YOU ARE

That’s it. It’s really that simple.

What does it mean?

It means checking in with yourself and asking yourself honestly, in this moment, what do I feel? What do I want? 

And if the answer is: I’m blocked.

Then what do you do? You start from that place.

You create from that place. You feel into the block. You get curious about the block. You use your imagination to imagine the size, the shape, the color, the weight of the block. You draw the block. You dance the block. You speak to the block. You describe the block with your words. 

And then something is starting to happen. It may be a very small something. It may feel insignificant. But, I can tell you, it’s not. It’s very, very important. Because you it's a way of seeing that your creativity is always there, it’s just that you have not been able to see it. You can't use it if you don't acknowledge it. Acknowledging what is happening in the moment is the first spark of your creativity. 

Still feel a wall between you and your creativity?

Draw the wall. Mime your hands up the wall. Write an ode to the wall. What does it feel like to touch? How has the wall served you? 

You may soon be laughing. Or if not, you are at least creating something.

Go ahead, and laugh. Keep laughing. And then get curious about what happens next…
 

There is only one thing I can teach.

I teach people how to look within to access the resources they already have. 

 

The resources are:
 

creativity

curiosity

compassion

consciousness

We all have those resources and they are endlessly renewable and free. We don’t need a new app or an upgrade or a class. We just need to learn how to look.

There is another phrase I am fond of saying:
 

THAT WHICH HINDERS YOUR TASK IS YOUR TASK


It’s a different way of saying the same thing.


This phrase comes from Sanford Meisner, the great acting teacher. For two years, I trained in his methodology, not under him, but with two teachers who had trained with him. My teacher posted this phrase in large letters on the wall of our acting studio. It summed up everything we needed to know about Meisner's method.

The technique Meisner developed was called the repetition technique. The basic idea is to have two actors sit on the stage, in chairs, facing each other. The actors take turns making simple observations about each other. "You're smiling." The other actor repeats the statement, "Yes, I'm smiling." The repetition goes back and forth until the statement no longer feels true, or until one of the actors notices something new that is happening either in herself or in the other.

The technique is about staying connected to the emotional truth of the moment, and riding those emotions as they change. Many years later, I trained for 3 years to become an expressive arts therapist. I consider my earlier Meisner training an invaluable part of my training as a therapist. And it was essentially the same thing—a training in emotional presence. In connecting with the truth of the moment, and allowing oneself to let go of the former moment in favor of what’s happening right now. 

 
  A photo from my Meisner acting class with Joe Anania, in the late 1990's

A photo from my Meisner acting class with Joe Anania, in the late 1990's

 

You don’t need to train in the Meisner technique or as an expressive arts therapist, to make use of this concept. All you need to do is drop in, at any moment, to the truth of your experience. That is where your real and authentic self is. Your self is not a thing, but a process. You are not a noun, you are a verb. 

I think it is safe for you to try this at home. 

Get comfortable in your chair. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and check in with yourself: What do I feel right now? What am I aware of? Whatever first hit you get— a pain in your shoulder, a fluttering in your chest, an image of a blank page. Create something out of it. Let the dots connect from one moment to the next. If you get frustrated because your cousin drops in unexpectedly as you are creating, then, b all means, invite your cousin into what you are doing.

That which hinders your task is your task.

Love & Creativity,

Zoë