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Creativity Paralysis

Recently, to a greater or lesser degree, I've found doing anything hard. Even writing this post is hard, thinking what I want to say and getting it in to words and actually posting it. Not because of any physical problem or anything like that, but just a fundamental state of being unable to capture the right mood and the right feelings at the right time when its appropriate, not to mention the ideas.

It annoys me as I see my friends' and others' creative endeavours all the time. Art, writing, jokes, software, music, videos, physical constructions or endeavours, anything that requires an original thought and the skill to execute on it. I know none of it is effortless, the people who create all the time and do so seemingly without effort is because of practice. I know in my own skill area how once where I used to struggle with how a program might function, these days I can see something and work out its possible data-structures and processes quite quickly. But the fact that they are able to even make starts in these things is frustrating.

I suppose it could be down partly at least, to the fact that what I do is not very well, easy to show off. A project like the system I'm working on now will be months of work and could well not be seen by anyone outside of a small circle till autumn of next year. Before that, the only people who would be able to appreciate it anyway would be other programmers, and sadly most of those I try to talk to are either too busy with their own work (no fault to them), or rude and inconsiderate, believing my work to be without any merit because of some choice I've made in the tools I am using to build it or because I am still learning as I go. And there is no way of course to prove any such disheartening arguments wrong, after all, the program is incomplete and cannot be tested to prove either point.

Ranting aside, I want to be able to make more artistic things. Of course, I also do the Pawpet stuff at ConFuzzled, but I mean Small things. Things that can be created, shown, appreciated, critiqued and then I move on to something else in a very short timespan. However, whenever I consider trying to do one of these things, write, draw, et; the creative paralysis hits. Much resolves around my computer as in, if I'm at it, everything is a distraction. The web, the MUSH, IM, IRC, heck, isn't it about time I changed my desktop wallpaper? All of these sap at my focus until nothing is started. Conversely, when I try to move away from it, I feel that disconnection and even sudden lack of ability. I can't write fast or well on paper (and if its something worth saving, I'd have to transcribe to share it!), I can't draw without looking at lots of reference pictures, I can't think without the right musical cue...

There's such a thing as Artist's Block, but I feel now as though this has been going on years. I remember when I was growing up and crazy madcap stories would flow in my imagination games with friends, weird strange, wonderful stuff. Now the only times those seem to come is when I'm asleep and dreaming. I couldn't ever draw much in the way of people or characters really unless it was a carbon copy trace, but I used to play-pretend spaceships and such with my brother and thus draw control panels and interfaces for those. Heh, precursor to my love and UI and UX I guess.

I really REALLY, need to get out of this. Its kept me awake along enough tonight to be writing this at almost four in the morning when I'm supposed to be getting an early night. If you do anything creative, and you all do. Regardless of what it is, how do you defeat your moods like these? What do you do to stop it coming back? And how do you deal with getting the willpower to focus while in an environment that is less than calm and free of interruption?

Small or huge replies dearly welcome. And as an experiment, cross posted to LiveJournal and Google+.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 5th, 2011 03:26 am (UTC)
I wish I could give some good advice but I lack the skills to give a proper conclusion to this. I will add that sometimes I find it hard to get out ideas as I like to do all sorts of things, having them in one place just doesn't really get the best attention and critique as having a few specialized communities to express myself in does.I often find that mouth words aren't always present so I'll reply since I'm about to go to bed.
Jul. 5th, 2011 06:06 am (UTC)
All I can suggest is doing what I do and having a list of things you want to do or make, which you can add to over time then you have a reminder for when you feel inspired to actually do them.

I'm not sure if this actually works or not as I've been doing this for about 2 years now. Yet I've still barely ever been able to pull myself out of the rut and get anything else other than writing them on the list done, but it's a start!
Jul. 5th, 2011 11:01 am (UTC)
Would you fancy doing a regular art jam or similar? come round for a couple hours, get the lads down from up the road, get a pizza and just draw or sew or whatever. No internet, cartoons in the background. I have plenty of photobooks of animals and suchlike if you need references, or I can do a big picdump onto my laptop if you have particular species in mind.
Jul. 5th, 2011 11:27 am (UTC)
I'm not sure how much use this will be, but the last bit of writing I did wasn't planned at all. Not even in the broadesst outline. It just turned up in my mind, and I started writing it then and there. It was about two in the morning, too, and I was terribly tired. I've noticed that I quite often seem less often to get going when I'm fully awake and alert; maybe it's because my mind then has the capacity to hold all sorts of other things, whereas when I'm knackered it's all I can do to keep one idea in my head.
Jul. 6th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
I gotta say, I totally know how you feel. x_x Admittedly, I can create art that's easy to see and such but I can hear you from the programming side, too. I hardly ever feel like I can show off the websites I code all day at work because I rarely do the design and that's what people see and like.

But let me tell you- I KNOW artist's block exists. Even for programmers and logical thinkers! Artist's block is a hard, hard thing to overcome. I try to switch around- write when I get stuck in art, ink when I can't seem to sketch good, etc. I have a really intense focus on goals (it's an ISJT thing :P) so I use that to motivate me. I've got a big to-do list sitting right next to my computer and I'm not allowed to cross anything off until it's completely done. I get spurred by that and promising myself little things when I complete little jobs. Write for 30 minutes and you can browse DA for 10 minutes. Finish this sketch and you can reply to those emails. Those things help me out, too, and a good clock/alarm system. ;)

I hope some of those things help you out? Let me know if not- or if you want to talk sometime or something! <3 <3 <3
Jul. 6th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC)
Try setting aside distraction-free time for your creative endeavors at least once a week (if possible). That means for a certain amount of time, you shut off and stay away from anything that would distract you and/or prevent those creative juices from flowing.

Play some inspiring music, watch or read something that inspires you, and perhaps you'll get some ideas. Sit down and attempt to jot down any ideas that seem good to you, be they art or text. Then get to work on 'em! Don't check your email, connect to the MUSH or AIM, or anything else on your Distractions list until you are done. You can decide each time when that is, or you can choose to set certain times/durations (an hour starting at 8pm each Wednesday evening, three hours on Sunday night, etc) to decide when you are finished.

If you feel stuck and at a loss for ideas, I may be able to help. I've got a very vivid imagination and my brainmeats are simply overflowing with all sorts of crazy ideas! I'd be glad to help guide you so you can create some of your own or even "borrow" some of mine and alter them to suit your needs.

I hope this helps. Feel free to discuss this further with me. :)
Jul. 6th, 2011 06:44 pm (UTC)
Erf. I've kinda had the same for years, too. Even things like tidying up the huge quantities of junk I have here are very very hard to get started on. I've been trying to get started on building a fursuit since about 1997...
Jul. 7th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
It is unfortunate that it is very hard as an individual to create any useful bit of software that others can see. One way is to work with very small platforms, such as Arduino, where you are very limited to the amount of code.

The only other way is to be part of a bigger team. Contribute to an open source project, or start one. Find someone you can
pair program with (http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?PairProgramming). At the risk of adding another distraction, have a good read of the other articles in the mother-wiki too. The other option is to do it as a job, but then you may find you may lose the enthusiasm.

Instant messaging is a huge, huge, distraction. It stops you concentrating. It's bad enough for programming, but it makes it almost impossible to do the right-brain shift you /have/ to accomplish for art (see drawing on the right side of the brain).
One of the reasons I'm rarely on IM.

Sometimes it helps to work on a machine that just doesn't have that stuff installed. Build a VM, or get a SATA drive in a sled or dock to boot from when you want to code. Make it hard to get distracted.
Jul. 7th, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
I feel your pain. It's been a while since I could justify much beyond tech or editing stuff to myself - there's always going to be someone better. I've also got a related problem where I get distracted by different non-creative tasks that I want to do.

I find it helps a bit to split off stuff that I want to do now and stuff that could be done later. In theory I can then focus on what I'm trying to do. The trouble is I then get screens full of tabs weighing down my browser. Some things also get delayed when they shouldn't - it makes it easier to procrastinate over "hard" decisions.

As you say, it's all too easy to find something cool ("hey! I can add SSL to my websites!") that soaks up time you were planning to do something more important or creative.

Better get out of that rut, though. It won't be long before you need to draw another 10-year retrospective!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )