There are a couple of little phrases that at times I’ve found so helpful – one is to “Keep the pen moving” and the other is from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way – “Come back to the place of play”.
I love that – “Come back to the place of play” – it immediately frees me to doodle around with words or keys on my piano – fiddle about just for the sheer love of metaphor and rhyming words, the sounds of chord progressions and where they unexpectedly go.
There is also something about the basic stuff – sleep, eat, exercise…..and friends…those gems who tell me the truth.
There’s kindness too – maybe that goes to the top of a list, if you like lists, alongside play. It feels like oil to me, softening the stuck places. There seem particular times when I need to consciously be kind to myself – one is at the end of a big project when I’m tired and need to rest, as happened recently when I completed a large orchestral piece based on the myth of Persephone that I had worked on over many months. Kindness needs to envelope too, during the process of creating when the first drafts and improvisations are sometimes full of clichés and I’m really not sure how the work needs to develop.
The discomfort I feel when not engaged creatively is very different from the discomfort of interference of negativity towards the work itself. The negative interference is described so brilliantly in Anne Lamott’s book on writing ‘Bird by Bird’. Perhaps also, avoiding writer’s block is to some degree, understanding the difference between these two discomforts.
……..or running as a small child on a wide beach.
“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”
― Anne Lamott,