Creative Block

Postby tashlentine » Tue May 30, 2017 11:16 am

Hi all,
Would appreciate getting some external perspectives on something I'm dealing with at the moment.

Backstory:
I used to be an artist - I loved it, I was creating constantly - I wouldn't leave the house without a sketchbook. I met a guy we moved in together, he encouraged me to get a 'real' job so that we could have a future together, so I taught myself graphic design and got a job as a web designer. I hated it - the work was boring and my boss was obnoxious. I lasted 6 months before my boss and I mutually decided I should leave. A couple of weeks after that, my relationship broke down - after going around telling all his friends he was going to marry me, and telling me how lucky he was to have me, out of the blue he came home drunk one night and told me I had to leave. So that was that and we never spoke again.

I was devastated, but I put my energy into getting another job as a branding designer, which I did and I loved it for the first year and a half - I learned loads, felt creatively fulfilled.. and then something happened. The BS started - work could never get pushed through because of stupid office politics, my boss was useless - he was never around, and I branded a multi million pound company by myself without really knowing what I was doing - but we were winning awards for it so whatever I did worked, and he stood and smiled about what a great 'team' we were (there was no team, I did everything).

I went into this career thinking I was getting my creative fix from my work so I didn't do anything in my downtime - which I know now was a mistake. My job became less and less about creating and more and more about corporate BS and cut and paste and I felt like a stamping machine, just churning out mindless garbage for people who only cared about getting the work done in the shortest time and the lowest price rather than getting it done well.

There was a lot of restructuring happening as well as some crap in my personal life - injuries and an adhd boyfriend which is difficult to deal with at the best of times. my boss said he chose to leave but we all knew he got pushed out. The environment was absolutely toxic. I felt like I had an axe hanging above my head for a year and a half and I was frantically spending all my lunch breaks sat in starbucks eating junk and working on updating my portfolio with the view to becoming freelance to earn more money and getting out of that place. I sent off a couple of applications for midweight roles at companies I would have liked to work for, and got nice messages back saying that I was overqualified for those roles, which was nice? I wasn't too bothered as I still had a job that was paying my rent. I was increasingly unhappy living in London - I was not a city person, and when the axe eventually fell and I was told that my role was no-longer needed and they were closing my department. I was also told: 'you're too creative for this place, you'll be much better off and happier somewhere else'. I felt an enormous sense of relief and a nice fat cheque sitting in my bank account that let me take a good chunk of time off to figure out my next step.

I left London. I decided I am sick of not having control over my own life - I want stability - my own place (which is really not a thing in the UK unless you're a couple. I don't know anyone who is able to afford to have their own apartment renting- forget owning. Everyone flatshares until they move in as a couple) and some form of autonomy. I can't rely on other people because they consistently let me down, so I have to be able to depend on myself and not have my future hanging on other peoples whims and wants. Maybe if I set up my own company and moved towards interior design I could feel fulfilled and stable. As a f-u to my old company, whenever someone asked me 'god are you ok what are you going to do?' I told them that I was moving on to doing my own, better thing and I was excited about it.

I was not excited. I was totally overwhelmed. I bought some stock for this company, and it has been sat in my parents garage for 6 months. I am totally paralysed about stepping forward with ether that or going back to a design job. I used to say that creating was like breathing for me and I have gone out of my way to not create for the last 6 months, and I don't know why.

I know I'm really good at what I do as a designer, and as an artist, but for some reason I don't want to go anywhere near my paints, or my graphics tablet. I'm not scared to do it - I know I can and that I can do it well. I'm totally unmotivated and just don't want anything to do with it. I actively seek out things to avoid doing it. Which is totally freaking me out because I have been a creative my entire life, and if I'm not creative I don't know wtf I am. I'm not depressed - I've been depressed before and I know what that feels like and this is not it. I'm not lazy because I will happily work around the clock even for no money if it's for something I'm passionate about. I'm just not feeling passionate about anything at the moment. Just generally dead behind the eyes. The only thing that has made me feel alive in the 2 years was going to a pottery class for the first time on Sunday - where I could just zone out and make something with no purpose, with absolutely no expectations. I came away from that and I could feel my eyes shining. I felt like myself again, even if it did only last for a few hours.

Why don't I want to create? Why do I feel so dried up and barren and avoiding this thing that was (/is?) everything to me. I used to be brimming with ideas and now nothing.

Nice big fat identity crisis for you all on a Tuesday lunchtime. Enjoy.
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue May 30, 2017 12:29 pm

tashlentine wrote:... I will happily work around the clock even for no money if it's for something I'm passionate about. I'm just not feeling passionate about anything at the moment. Just generally dead behind the eyes. The only thing that has made me feel alive in the 2 years was going to a pottery class for the first time on Sunday - where I could just zone out and make something with no purpose, with absolutely no expectations. I came away from that and I could feel my eyes shining. I felt like myself again, even if it did only last for a few hours.

Why don't I want to create? Why do I feel so dried up and barren and avoiding this thing that was (/is?) everything to me. I used to be brimming with ideas and now nothing.


I think the above sums up the issue nicely. You want to create with no purpose, no expectations. So do that.

The question is how do you turn that into a rewarding career. It doesn't sound like much of a business model to create whatever the heck you want, hours on end with no purpose. But, I know people that do.

I know this one artist in Ecuador, a photographer. He takes amazing photos, it is what he loves. He then goes around to coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, local businesses and either sells them or makes a consignment arrangement. His art hangs with a price tag. Some of it sells, some of it doesn't. What does he care? As long as he makes enough to pay the bills and have a bit left over for fun.
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#2

Postby tashlentine » Thu Jun 01, 2017 12:04 pm

Hey Richard! I wrote a nice response to this the other day but my computer died so I lost it.
I think you hit the nail on the head there - it's the responsible grownup needing a job and the inner child just wanting to have fun really isn't it.
I've always had an odd relationship with money - I absolutely hate it, but I know it's necessary in this world in order to survive. The price of being a dreamer - always being dissatisfied with reality! lol
Can you send me a link to your Equadorian chap's work if he has a site? I'd be interested to see it!
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#3

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Fri Jun 02, 2017 7:24 am

tashlentine wrote:Hey Richard! I wrote a nice response to this the other day but my computer died so I lost it.


That bites. I hate it when I lose my work.

Can you send me a link to your Equadorian chap's work if he has a site? I'd be interested to see it!


He is old school. None of his stuff is online and he is severely tech challenged. When I was last there I transferred all his files from an old computer to his new and it was a mess. He actually retired over a decade ago and the Ecuador thing he just does for fun.


I've always had an odd relationship with money - I absolutely hate it, but I know it's necessary in this world in order to survive. The price of being a dreamer - always being dissatisfied with reality!


This is something I have never understood. Maybe you can explain it to me, because I never understand why money is hated. If a barber/hairy stylist loved your work and said they would really appreciate putting some up in their shop and asked if they could trade you a years worth of free styling for a piece of your work would that be an issue for you? Would you hate the idea that a person wanted to trade you free hair cuts for your work? What about if a restaurant owner wanted some of your work and traded you free meals? You would hate that? Why? I think it would be awesome.

I guess I don't understand creating something that no one else might want. I'm not saying every piece of art is a winner and maybe some is only appreciated by you, but I would hope the vast majority of people would enjoy and like whatever it was you were creating.

Another site for you to check out is Patreon.com it is a good place for artists to get sponsors.
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#4

Postby tashlentine » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:47 am

Richard@DecisionSkills wrote:This is something I have never understood. Maybe you can explain it to me, because I never understand why money is hated. If a barber/hairy stylist loved your work and said they would really appreciate putting some up in their shop and asked if they could trade you a years worth of free styling for a piece of your work would that be an issue for you? Would you hate the idea that a person wanted to trade you free hair cuts for your work? What about if a restaurant owner wanted some of your work and traded you free meals? You would hate that? Why? I think it would be awesome.

I guess I don't understand creating something that no one else might want.


Haha good question! One I have never actually had posed to me in that way before! :)

Several reasons for hating money:
1) I don't really understand it or how it works - which may seem ridiculous, but there you go.
gross/net/isa/inflation/interest/investment/high interest deposit/api/compound interest/bonds/capital gains/tax/insurance/cashflow... it all actually makes my brain hurt. I'm not a logical person and while it may seem simple to most people I find it easier to grasp ideas and concepts than facts... for example the way my brain works is if you explained to me what Higgs Boson was I would get the overall concept... but if you showed me the workings of how that conclusion was arrived at my eyes would just glaze over. Same with money - have money / don't have money. That's about my limit of comprehension. Maybe it's also because I pay for everything with card - I hate cash because I don't like carrying a bag around with me - I literally just have my keys, phone and bank card in a pocket when I leave the house; so money is more of a concept I carry around in my head than an actual thing.

2) My mum is obsessed with money - she can tell you the price of everything our house, she can even tell you how much a tube of toothpaste cost in the 1950s. She can't tell you what makes her happy - I actually tried this game with her the other day 'tell me 5 things that make you happy'.. her diamond ring, because it's the most valuable thing she has after the car and the house, and after that she struggled. For me it's so easy! Sunshine! friends! the pattern water makes when it reflects light, the smell before a storm, that feeling when you stand on grass barefoot. I'd struggle with limiting it to just 5 things! If I ever buy something that I love, like a mug that's the perfect shape 'how much did you pay for that?' and she'll generally find fault with anything I spend money on. If I buy something cheap she'll turn her nose up, but also if I buy anything expensive she'll snort and tell me I could have got it cheaper somewhere else. The fact that I am very happy with the thing I have is totally irrelevant. She was a ladder climber in the retail industry before I was born, and any job I do is not good enough and I should be running the place. My mum would think if she was sat on top of a mountain of gold that would be her life well lived.

3) My dad is just like me, so maybe I've learned my distaste of money from him. Every time mum wants to sit down and talk about money he gets massively stressed - as long as he's got enough to get by and pay his bills and stuff and not stress he's happy and he doesn't need/want to know any more about it. He was an opera singer and did a lot of random jobs to fill in the gaps between shows, he toured Ireland living in a bus and singing, he was a butler, he was a tutor, he was a gardener, he worked in a shop, he lived in florence for 3 years during the flood and fell into a job as a tour guide at an art gallery because he loved the paintings and was trying to chat up a girl by showing off what he knew, and she hired him to work there :lol: He writes/composes/sings.. everything he does is because he loves it - the money is immaterial to him - it's a byproduct.

I've always thought if I can look back at my life when I'm 100 and know it was full of passion and curiosity I would consider that a life well lived. If I looked back at my life when I'm 100 and sat on a throne of gold but with a life devoid of passion or interest, I would consider that a complete and utter failure and a waste. If I had a golden throne and a life of passion and curiosity, my life would be a success, but the throne would still be nothing more to me than a convenient chair to sit on, and I would appreciate and value it for being that.

It also explains, now I think about it, the difference of views that my mum and I have on fancy restaurants. She thinks that a curry or pie and chips down the pub is wonderful - she doesn't like fancy restaurants because she sees it as a waste of money because you don't get much food. She actually feels like she's been short-changed if she's taken to a michelin star restaurant. Whereas I do love fancy restaurants - I love the art of them - from the decor in the place to the thought behind the pairing of wine with food (even though I don't drink, I appreciate someone has put effort into thinking about that), the fusion of unusual flavours, the care and attention that has gone into everything from sourcing the ingredients to turning it into a decorative work of art on my plate. If pie and chips down the pub tastes good I'll appreciate it, but mass produced food slopped onto a plate and shoved in a microwave is not art.

To me creating is as necessary as breathing - it's not a want or a fancy, it's a need (which explains why I'm so freaked out about being blocked). When I sit down and make anything I don't think how much It should sell for, and I always struggled putting a price on my work in galleries - I think I would be happier selling it in exchange for food etc I'd love that! To be honest I'd value the food that a chef have gone to the trouble of making me far more than a handful of paper and metal. There's actually a really interesting tedx talk where a woman spent a year without spending money - she found it a challenging but wonderful experience where she grew a community network around her where she would work for them in exchange for things like food. I honestly think I would prefer it if society went back to that sort of bartering system.

The board won't let me post a url but if you stick 'My year of living without money | Carolien Hoogland | TEDxErasmusUniversity' into youtube it should come up.

Hope that makes it a little clearer and isn't just a lot of words :lol:
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#5

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Sat Jun 03, 2017 5:55 am

tashlentine wrote:1) I don't really understand it or how it works


Exactly. You hate what you don't understand.

Money is just a way of giving you a live chicken in exchange for what you create. If you sold a piece of pottery, a person gives you 1 live chicken. But what if your art is really worth 1.25 chickens? It is kinda of hard to give you 1.25 of a live chicken. Besides, chickens are hard to carry around. They are hard to trade. Enter the concept of money. Instead of giving you a live chicken, you get 1.25 worth of money.

You trade your art for goods and services. You trade your art for haircuts, food, chickens, or whatever else. Money is just a way to make trading easier.
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