Monday, June 23, 2008
No, I am not talking about the kind that has you running for a laxative or scheduling a high colonic (but a good metaphor is in there somewhere). I am talking about the kind of blockage that stops you from producing as an artist.
Over the last 6 weeks I've been on treadmill to nowhere or at least that's what it feels like. I've had tons of projects on my plate, but more than a few haven't gone exactly as I planned. The screenplay I was hired to write and that was slated to go into production this summer has stalled out, the comedy script I'm trying to write, in preparation for a prestigous fellowship, is feeling terribly unfunny, and I've sent out dozens of review copies of the most recent anthology and have not heard a peep back from any of the reviewers.
With all this lack of movement, I've gotten into this serious funk. I can't even keep up with my obligation to this blog. Mostly I've been questioning what the hell am I doing. Who told me I could be a screenwriter, an editor, a publisher, a poet, or an activist? All the things I love to do, but all of them feel like a chore right now.
I've been journaling about my anemic artist state for weeks, but it wasn't until I picked up my old copy of the Artist's Way this afternoon was I able to name what is going on with me. FEAR! Fear is the undoing of many an artist - most more talented than me. After reading through a couple of chapters I'm slowly coming to terms with what has been going on.
I'm in this stage of my artist's life where more than a few people have deemed me "good". Good enough to pay me for a product, good enough to book me for a gig, or good enought to pitch me an idea. Somewhere along the way "good" has been translated to "expectation" and that is freakin' me the hell out. What if they don't like what I've written and want their money back? What if they hate my reading or performance? What if they tell other people that I'm not that talented and they believe them. "What if" is driving me around the bend. In some ways it has frozen me - allowing the self-doubt to burrow deeper.
A lot of the things that I used to do, when there was no expectation, suddenly feel foreign and awkward. I'm feeling very self-aware - which in this case is not a good thing. I normally don't publicly write about my artistic struggles, but one of the things that The Artist's Way recommends is to speak the truth and free yourself of the myths that you are burdening yourself with. So I figured a public unburdening would do me good. My myth - that I must be perfect at everything I do - is stopping me from getting on with my current projects and discovering new projects.
What I like about The Artist's Way is that it is an action guide. Every chapter requires you to do something. Actually, a bunch of somethings. I read and completed The Artist's Way back in 2001 and one of the habits I've held on to are the morning pages. I journal every day! Journaling helps to get things out of your head and also helps you record patterns and trends. I took the time to read a couple of my journals this weekend and I discovered something very interesting - I've been on the way to an "artist crisis" for more than a few months now. Because I don't make a habit of reading my journals (when I'm finished with one I just stack it on my altar with the others and move on to another one)I wasn't able to see this coming. I've been lamenting in various ways that I feel like I need to make a major decision about how I am using my time (to create) and I've not been able to come up with a suitable solution. Mostly I've been trying to avoid the discomfort associated with a solution, but you can't hide from the inevitable and the Universe will keep bring "it" back to your attention.
I guess the only real way to free myself from this current state is to finally make that damn decision.