Painter’s Block

Have you ever been blocked?

Writers talk about writer’s block. Being blocked occasionally is normal, but it’s an odd feeling.

My Mephistos by Stephanie Benedict. Graphite on paper
My Mephistos by ©2007 Stephanie Benedict. Graphite on paper. Collection of the artist.

I’ve recently finished a couple of months of pretty intense painting (for me!): submitting to shows, sometimes getting in, sometimes not; painting some large paintings to the gallery I’m in. And then there’s the rest of life that keeps jumping up and seeking my attention.

So I find myself now with nary an idea in my head. Not for a new painting, and hardly for this blog. But, following Steven Pressfield’s advice in Turning Pro, I’m getting up and starting anyway. Thomas Edison is reported to have said that “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So I’m putting in the perspiration time.

I just started reading Twyla Tharp’s Creative Habit. I’ve long been a believer in establishing habits to encourage your monkey mind to work. Things like having a studio set up, and only working in the studio (not including any plein air painting: I mean don’t try to work in the kitchen). That way, your brain starts thinking “oh, I’m in the studio, it must be time to paint.” Or, as Tharp describes, starting work with a ritual to put your brain into gear for work. What that ritual is, is up to you.

Creative types may rebel at the notion of ritual or repetition, but I’ve found it works. Always showing up at the computer to work on blog posts, or going for a walk before I start to paint.

Then there’s the idea of filling the well, too: the creative well is dry, so I need to refill it. Walking helps here, too. Motion. Movement. Mopping the floors, or cleaning the studio. So while I’m refilling the well, I’ll also keep to my habits, my rituals. I’m getting exciting for what might come next!

Do you have habits of creativity? Or rituals you follow?


3 thoughts on “Painter’s Block

  1. Tharp’s “Creative Habit” is great book. When I feel “stuck” I find myself turning to one of the exercise pages to give me a jump start. Another favorite book of mine on the subject of inviting the muse is “The Blank Canvas” by Anna Audette.

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