Art Block is something I think every one of us creatives have experienced in our times, and we all know what a downer it can be. Whether it’s art block, writers block, or just plain burnout, these stealers of our joy can also take away days, months, even years out of our creative journeys. This is why putting up defensive against such blocks is truly important for every creative.
I haven’t experienced art block in a very long time, and I’d like to share my not so secret secrets with you. Obviously, what has worked for me won’t be a perfect fit for you, but the principals are the same across the board and can be tailored to fit your unique lifestyle.
As a native Californian and current resident of Florida, I love going to the beach. However, just sitting on the beach is not fun to me. Rather, I walk the coastline for miles, picking up seashells. Each seashell is unique, small or large, and in that moment, extremely special to me. I come home from the beach with pockets full of shells. I go to pay the cashier and instead of finding the correct change, I’m pulling tiny shells from my wallet.
I have shells everywhere. I decorate my home with them. I decorate my yard with them. I find them floating in the bottom of my purse and skidding across the floorboard of my car.
Trust me, there’s a point to the seashell story.
The Key to never experience art block or any other creative block again is to actively cultivate a life of inspiration. What the heck does that mean?! To put it simply, pick up seashells everywhere you go.
This might sound daunting at first, but once you start you’ll be shocked at how much inspiration is around you constantly. But, to give you a tangible feel, I’ll give you a glimpse into my normal every day life and how I’m always seeking to cultivate inspiration.
My days are not always structured the same, but usually these key points happen each day. This is not an exhaustive list of do’s and don’ts. Like I said before,tailor this into your own life.
My day starts early, with coffee and devotions, prayer and reading a spiritual book. I take this time to go slowly, and try to be aware of everything around me-especially the birds waking up and getting their breakfast from the feeder outside my window. This time really gets my heart ready for the day. That first invigorating sip of coffee? A seashell in my pocket. Listening to the Cardinals singing in the dawn? A seashell in my pocket.
I take on average 3 twenty minute long walks per day, thanks to my hyperactive Australian Shepherd, so this becomes my main source of inspiration. Everything from how the wind feels on my skin to the smell of whatever is blooming (it’s Florida. Something is Always blooming.) to spotting that red tailed falcon on the line or picking a lemon off a bush are all seashells I gather every day.
I also make it a point on our many daily walks to stroll past this one house at least once. It is a treasure trove of inspiration to me. In this house lives an elderly woman, and in the front room of her house is her art studio. Whenever I go by I walk suuuuuper slow so I can soak in as much as I can without just blatantly gawking and possibly getting the cops called on my behind.
I’ve been walking past her house for over two years and have never actually seen her in her studio working, but I have watched the painting on her canvas progress. I take note of the paintings hanging on her walls and the jars of paint and brushes that line her windowsill. Just yesterday I spotted that she’s added another large easel in this room, and is working on two projects at the same time. I’ve never stopped to talk to her, and she will probably never know that her quiet dedication to her work inspires a young artist down the street to continue to create.
But I don’t just gather my shells on my serene mornings and beautiful walks. Whilst walking the isles of Walmart, I people watch. Elderly people have been such a fascination for me ever since I was little. I love peaking into an old mans cart to see what he’s buying as I pass by. I don’t know why, but just seeing the simplicity of coffee and a loaf of bread are more seashells added to my reserve.
Maybe more practically, I find time every day to look at other artists work. What’s kind of surprising is that the work that inspires me the most is usually nothing like my own style or subject matter. I can stare at one of Mark Maggiori’s incredible western oil pieces and have an insatiable thirst that I need to go draw a dog! Right now! My daily dose of instagram is always full of inspiration, if I’d take the time to look.
Books like Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist and listening to biographies on audible are also seashells I gather weekly, if not daily.
Finally, whatever the subject is that lights you on Fire, study it. In example, I love to draw dogs, Australian Shepherds in particular, so it helps that I have an Aussie in my life. I love looking closely at his face and noting his fur patterns, how the hair behind is ears is impossibly soft. This directly influences my work, while most other seashells I gather leave their impressions mainly on my heart.
Guys, this type of slow living and cultivating of inspiration doesn’t come naturally to us. You really do have to work at it. But I promise you, you won’t regret it.
Are there any other things you would add to this list? Maybe keeping an inspiration file folder you can visit in times of inspiration famine? Let me know in the comments below!