The 2020 Release
Writer's Block? Filmmaker's Fatigue? Director's Doldrums? Do any of these things really exist? Like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the answer is both yes and no. Artists are passionate people driven to create. It is the very act of creation that makes artists feel alive and full of purpose. Now imagine that same passion smacking into a wall of self doubt.
"Burnout?" the artist wonders. "Have I lost it? Should I start selling pretzels at the mall?"
Ain't No Joy Ride
2020 has been an exasperating, frustrating, challenging year of isolation, fear, social division, political turmoil, and economic despair. The old adage, "May you live in interesting times," is a old British expression. Unfortunately, it’s also an ancient Chinese curse.
Creativity responds to stimulation. Without stimulation, the artist's drive falls to ennui. Bored, listless, it’s hard to drive ahead with batteries in need of a charge. Over stimulation has the opposite effect. It makes our creative engines run fast and hot with wheels spinning in all four directions. What is the point of manic energy without focus? Our creative energy gushes without intention. Does this lead to Writer's Block and Creative Fatigue? How could it not?
But is There a Cure?
Artists pour their hearts and souls into their work. Producing project after project takes its toll. Like an old dishrag the creative mind gets twisted dry causing worry and panic. So who turned off the big genius tap? The answer is you did. So how do you fix it? Again, the answer is you.
Julia Cameron wrote a wonderful book, The Artist's Way, a self-help therapeutic workbook to revitalize the artistic soul. There is a chapter about learning to nurture yourself. Cameron calls it, "The Artist's Date," a series of events, trips, and activities just for you, by you, with only you, and no one else. It’s a chance for solitude, stimulation, and self reflection. It’s also fun. When we become hyper-focused on creative work we tend to block out external stimuli yet we need stimuli. It's life affirming. It's good for your brain. It's the sustaining protein of creativity. When we take a moment to breath and relax, pick up a camera or paint brush just for fun, read a book, visit a park, road trip, we discover new interests and fresh ideas. We reconnect to the joy of creation.
Boredom is not a Four Letter Word
Boredom can make people anxious. It’s too quiet, too lonely, too unproductive. You can’t read a book beyond three pages. Everything on Netflix seems familiar and dull. Life has no meaning, no creativity, no joy. You're caught in a spiral of frustration and there's no floatation device... and it keeps getting worse. OMG, even tasty cookies have lost their appeal. Forget writing or filming. How can you even get out of bed? Two words, bro... Apocalypse Now. Yes, Francis Ford Coppola's masterwork contains a clue. Marlon Brando's character, Col. Kurtz, hunkered down in the Cambodian jungle explains to Martin Sheen that the horror of war is, well, truly horrific. It scared Kurtz at first but then he understood the genius of his enemy's horrific methods, "You must make a friend of horror." But c'mon, you don’t want to refight the Vietnam War. You want to write a screenplay. You want to make a film. How? Boredom is the Horror...the Horror... Yeah, you guessed it, it’s time you made a friend of Boredom. Insane, right?
Tony Robbins, the motivational guru, offers up a tasty notion. Robbins, a known stimuli junkie, often finds himself thoroughly bored. At first he despised the feeling. He felt irritated and resentful. He felt himself consumed by boredom. It depressed him. Then Robbins took a new approach. He looked at the other side of the coin. He realized boredom somehow always led to change, a sudden new course in his life. He began to see the positive side of boredom. By applying a positive attitude, he knew something exciting was about to happen. Suddenly boredom was no longer a wall. It was a launching pad. You don’t need to have all the answers. You don't need to know what elements will stir your creative passions. You just need to know that the answers are out there and on their way. You need to breathe.