The Death of Creativity / Day 39 of 365

Back in 2012, I was a creative super-machine. I finished a 365 project the year prior and had just bought my dream camera. It seemed like every week I was doing something crazy and new. I regularly dragged friends into frozen creeks, through stinging nettles, and into the wild recesses of my world. My camera lived on my shoulder and, like my mind, it was always fully charged.

I vividly remember having a late night conversation with Jake back then. He was one of the first artists that I was close to – and the one who really pushed me to create, no matter what crazy ideas I had. Our conversations usually centered around critiquing art that the other had made.

On this particular night, I was really pushing Jake to start blogging. Beyond consuming my life with photography, I had bloomed into blogging. It was almost October and I was participating in an annual ‘Blogtober’. I’ll never forget what Jake said to me that night;

“There’s so much stuff already out there already – I don’t want to contribute to the noise.”

Jake is about 5 years my senior and, unlike me, had been creating across every medium. I knew him as a photographer, a sculptor, a painter – one of the first interactions I had with him was at a church over-nighter. We went bowling and I spent the night talking with him. As we talked, he took out his sketchbook and drew a charcoal picture of me.

I think that artists typically remember their birth into art. This was the beginning for me.

When Jake said he didn’t want to contribute to the noise anymore, it was although I had woken up even though I was already awake. Suddenly I saw noise everywhere. There was too much information out in the world and I became self-conscious.

That was my death.

A weed was planted that night and I’ve spent the last 5 years pulling them up. “Is what I’m creating worth being put out there?” sprung up from the corner of my beautifully cultivated garden. Soon thereafter, “Am I really contributing or just creating junk?”. I wasn’t quick enough to pull these weeds out. I was in deep trouble when the “Am I bothering people by putting my art in front of their faces?” arrived.

Soon the weeds overtook the garden, and although I plant new flowers occasionally, they’re dwarfed by self-consciousness. At 18 years old, I didn’t have the capacity to understand this. I only saw that I was ‘making noise’. That was my creative death.




July 23./ Laying out Excuses

Writer’s block has hit me hard for the last year. To break out of this period of inactivity, I want to do an exercise that I saw in Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit”. In it, she lists the excuses she sometimes makes to avoid creating. Afterwards she provides commentary about how she can move past them. In no particular order, here are my excuses:

  1. I’m not a professional / I don’t want to mislead others
    Excuse: A few years ago, when I was hyped about blogging, I often tried to motivate friends to start writing. I heard every excuse in the book. One friend though, said she didn’t want to start blogging because she didn’t want to contribute to the noise. “There’s too many people on the internet shouting their opinions” she said.This was hard on me because I had to ask myself if I was actually contributing online or just shouting my opinions. I’m not a professional on any topic. I don’t have a degree. Most of my knowledge comes out books or experiences. This excuse could be summed up by the introspective question all artists face: “What qualifies you to do this?”

    Rebuttal: Honestly? Most of the internet is filled with people who are not qualified to do what they do. But they do it anyways. For the most part, nothing could really qualify a person. Who says that someone is qualified to walk down the street and vlog their life on their camera? Or toss a bunch of mentos in coke? Or to do anything for that matter?

    As for the ‘shouting opinions’ portion, everyone is going to come across in this way. If you want to share, it’s inherently noisy. You don’t make the noise any louder by producing or any quieter by not writing. If you’re heart is telling you to contribute, go out and create. It’s bound to be noisy.

  2. I’m unclear about my intentions about why I write and what to write about
    Excuse: Often when I sit down when I sit down to write I don’t have a particular topic that I want to discuss in mind. I only have the feeling that I want to write. Without direction or drive, I spin between possible topics for too much time before giving up.The process of choosing a topic is… long winded? Usually this part is intermixed with the other excuses; “what qualifies you to write about this?”, “why don’t you write about a personal experience instead?”, “that’ll take too long”, et cetera. Without a topic, I don’t have clear intentions to create a good product.

    Rebuttal: The obvious solution to this excuse is to take time to define why you write and what you want to write about. Find what topic you want to discuss and stick to it. The first step you should take when sitting down is defining why you’re here and what you’re going to do. Going with the flow is a great skill to have but if you do it too much here, you’ll exhaust yourself wandering through topics with no direction. Pick a topic and hold to it.

  3. My writing skills are rusty and it’s embarrassing to read old posts
    Excuse: While this one is easy to counter, I often find myself faced with my old writing. Not that it was particularly good, but when I was writing daily, my skills were much higher. Now that I’ve stopped writing for almost two years, I automatically compare my current work to that which I was producing during a creative “height”.

    Rebuttal: Comparison will eat you alive. If you spend your time sulking in how you’re not as great as you once were, you’ll never do great things again. If the feeling is nagging you that bad, just work through it and continue to produce. With time and persistence, you’ll hone your craft again. Maybe it won’t be in the same way, and that’s fine, but you will get better as you work.

  4. It’s time consuming and there are other things I could be doing
    Excuse: Without skills, it takes feels like it takes forever to write. I spend 4 or 5 hours writing a short blog posts, then I over-edit it, question myself about whether it’s “good enough to post”, then ultimately log off for the night without sharing it.

    More than anything this make me feel like I’m wasting my time. It takes me a long time to sit down and produce something. “Is it worth the time if the product isn’t great?”

    Rebuttal: All art takes time to produce. You can’t go into it thinking that you’ll be able to jump in quick and come out with a fantastic product. You have to put in the time to create something awesome. Even with greater skill, you’ll still have to put in your hours. Suck it up buttercup, everyone goes through these stages of writing too much, overdoing it, and questioning if it’s good enough. It’s part of the process. Keep going and push passed it.

  5. When it comes down to it, I’m scared of judgement or being held accountable for what I write
    Excuse: These “writer’s blocks” usually boil down to a fear of being judged for expressing something. Whether it be a personal topic or a judgement based off what I choose to reblog or share. “If I write ________, will I come across as too (gay, masculine, feminine, showoff-ish, dumb, know-it-all, irrelevant)?”

    On the same note, I’m afraid that if I write casually, down the road someone is going to hold me to what I wrote. My opinions change as I gain understanding. What I wrote two years ago may not be true about me anymore.

    Rebuttal: No matter what you do, people will always judge you for it. And that’s okay because it really doesn’t matter what others think about you. You’ll always be too gay, too thin, too dumb, for somebody. So what? Create anyways. Have confidence in what you do. You feel driven to create and share. Not everybody can say that.

    The same is true about being held accountable for what you produce. People will always hold things against you. You’ll always be too much of something. Even if it was a past you. Create anyways. Be radical, then contradict yourself. Who cares? You’re allowed to change. You’re allowed to be obscene and different and too much. Do what you love.

Hey y’all, thanks for reading this. I apologize for how long this post has gotten. Brevity isn’t my strong suit. Plus, it’s easy to complain and write excuses! 😛 I hope that if you experience any of these same excuses, maybe you’ll let them go. I’d love to see what you produce. If anyone gets this far, let me know in the comments what excuses you face and how you get passed them. Have a good day/night and I’ll catch ya later!



Artist Block and General Anxiety

It feels horrible to hit a point where you no longer feel creative. Where no fresh ideas flow through your mind. Artist blocks are terrifying. You don’t know what to create because you don’t have substance. It’s like you have an itch and you want to scratch it but you don’t know where on your body it is. In a block, I’m just blindly clawing at myself until I find how to relieve the itch.

It’s as though I have this intense emotion inside of me and I can’t relieve it. Words can’t express it. I can’t tell you how I feel because it’s more intense than that. I have to create something that properly communicates the emotion. It’s frustrating. I claw and grapple at any way that insane itch can be extinguished.

That’s what a block feels like to me. It’s desperate, generally filled with frustration, and the bane of my artistic existence. Even writing this has been exhausting. I’m scratching at myself trying to find the right way to tell you what it feels like. If that’s not a conundrum, I don’t know what is.

Blocks feel insane because you start with nothing. In your head, you have an emotion. There is no physical equivalent of what you feel. To give birth to that emotion, you have to find what physically exists and mold it into what matches your head. For writers, it’s finding the right word; painters, it’s the right color or stroke; for photographers, it’s finding the right angle or lighting. No matter the medium, you have to find a way to make an intangible emotion into something others can see and feel.

The types of artistic blocks can vary. Sometimes it feels like you have this monstrous emotion inside of you and the only way to prevent it from consuming you is to give it birth. Other times it feels like you need to create but you don’t have anything to give. You’re ready to create, you’ve got the resources, full stocks of paint… but no emotion to cover the canvas.

Now that you understand how desperate and terrifying these blocks can feel like, I want to show you the opposite side. This was actually the reason I started writing tonight:

For the last 2 years I’ve been afraid that I’ll run out of emotion.

It sounds silly but not all feelings are intense enough to create with. Mediocre love doesn’t produce the same art that passionate love does. There isn’t room for mediocrity. Ultimately I’m afraid of being starved of that intensity. So… I’ve been hoarding the emotions.

The passionate love and intense heartbreak that I had last year, I can’t let it go. I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll starve. That I’ll run dry. I’ll have all the resources; models to shoot with, locations to work with, but no BANG of creative energy to go along with it.

Everywhere I go, I carry that heartbreak with me. I put it into a bag of emotions on my hip labelled “feelings I’d like to create with”. Attached to the side there’s a note that reads: “open cautiously, emotions may overwhelm”. Usually that’s what happens. The bag is so full that everywhere I go, it spills a little here and there.

I once read that the mind is like a cup of tea. If you want fresh tea, you have to pour the old stuff out. Otherwise, your cup will overflow and create a mess. There is no use is keeping the old tea, even if it once was delicious. Everything goes stale over time. Carrying around that extra emotion is an unnecessary burden.

I carry too many painful emotions in hopes that one day I’ll be able to create with them. Deep down, I know beautiful things can come out of horrible experiences, so I dream of transforming them. I want to change the difficult times into beautiful works of art – but it’s not necessary. Some of life is just suffering.

All in all, this is a reminder to let go. Don’t be terrified of the blocks. They come and pass naturally. I’ve carried way too many emotions far past their expiration. Empty your cup of tea so you can experience the next batch.

Artist’s Block

Live is always around us. Behind every monstrous artist’s block there is a human being living their life. As an artist it’s so easy to think that when we aren’t creating we aren’t alive. Realize that art may be your livelihood but it isn’t your life. You’re so much more than what you create. You’re the cumulative experience of that creation – you are its inception, its imperfect resolution, and the emotions it took to create. While it’s true that there’s exhilaration in expressing yourself, sometimes we forget what art truly is.

Art is an experience. It is an intangible piece within yourself. Something you feel compelled to express. You may not create for others but art is an expression. It is the replication of something intangible. When you can’t create, it’s because you’ve missed the point of it all. Art isn’t something you can force out of yourself – there has to be something within you first.

Sometimes we can’t express because we need to absorb. We have to stop talking so we can listen. If art is an experience, we need to feel it. That isn’t always easy.

Lately I’ve found myself filled with words and feelings. Blogging has made it easier to express myself but it’s difficult to write about something you aren’t feeling. When I write about subjects, I’m not always passionate about them. I don’t have a lot of feeling about them and so the words move like molasses out of me.

That’s what a 365 teaches you. Expression isn’t always about the product – it’s about being compelled to bring something into existence. It’s the feeling underlying whatever you’re creating. Writing daily and completing a photography 365 in 2011 has shown me that while I idolize endless creation, I often forget to feel. I want to create that product so much that I neglect to live my life.

If you’re suffering from some sort of artist’s block, give it time. Find what you are passionate about in life and breathe it all in. Sit down and watch some TV, watch your favorite YouTuber, and crank up the volume on your favorite music. Inspiration will be found when you’re absorbed completely in what you’re doing. When you’re overflowing with life it will pour itself back out of you. Creation is breathing in everything you are passionate about and inevitably exhaling something beautiful back out.


Dealing with 5-HTP and depression

Emotions are the body’s physical interpretation or reaction to our thoughts. When we think, emotion is created from that and expressed in the body. We can think about the sound of claws on a chalkboard and physically feel the pain from it. In a lesser example, if we think about our family, we could feel love inside. That emotion is the bodily reaction to your thoughts.

That being said, today I got sick. My sinuses inflamed and my throat became course with mucus. I got a headache and couldn’t think straight. It was as if everything had been set off inside of me. Some part of me thinks this is my body’s way of becoming stressed about leaving. I’ve somewhat made peace with it in my mind but my body seems to be very upset.

This afternoon, when my roommate finally left for five minutes, I got to do a short meditation and it really helped. My mind called with mu and I got some good breathing going. Afterwards my headache vanished and it was if I could breath again. Perhaps it is my mind that is subconsciously upset.

A couple months ago (around Christmas I believe) I wrote about 5-HTP as a wonder drug. Basically it’s a vitamin that you can take that increases the serotonin in your systems. If you didn’t know, serotonin is the brain chemical responsible for making you feel calm and as if everything is alright. 5-HTP thus works as an antidepressant.

For me, 5-HTP works incredibly well! I take it and within 45 minutes I suddenly feel really happy and calm. I feel at peace with everything that is going on around me. I actually had to get off of it because eventually when I wasn’t taking it, I felt really depressed. It made the highs incredibly higher and the lows incredibly lower. When I wasn’t taking 5-HTP, I felt horrible. That’s why I got off of it two months ago.

Since I get a lot of anxiety about moving and change, I went back onto 5-HTP at 100mg once or twice a day, which was less than my previous dosage. It was in effort to keep myself from getting in the pits right before I left and to enjoy what time I had left here.

When I got sick today I started to wonder if maybe my mind isn’t okay with what’s going on around me and if the extra serotonin is creating a false sense of well being. After thinking about it, I’ve realized that mentally I’m a mess right now.

I’ve got anxieties about what I have left to do before I go. Getting home and getting anxiety about having to leave again. Seeing everyone. Moving to a brand new place to spend the next 3 years of my life. I’ve got a lot of anxieties to deal with and although 5-HTP has temporarily helped me, I also think that it is hindering me solving these problems. When I deal with the stress, I find ways to cope and coexist with it. When I’m on 5-HTP, it’s like the anxiety is still there but I don’t feel it. It’s like I’m mentally blocked from it.

Resolution: get off the the 5-HTP and work through the problems. Meditation has been one of the key ways to eliminate stress from my life in the last year. I should be doing a lot more of it! 5-HTP is a fantastic upper, it works like a miracle for me, but I need to solve these problems rather than just be happy or content with them.

It’s just a bizarre situation to explain but maybe it will help you. I’m not a doctor, so I cannot proscribe or recommend any medicines. This is, of course, all based on personal experience. If you’ve ever tried 5-HTP (hydroxy-tryptophan), leave a comment below telling me about it! Have you had mental blocks? Did it work for you? Have you tried other ‘antidepressant’ vitamins like SAM-E? Let me know!



The End of my Writer’s Block

Lately I’ve had a lot of opportunity to catch up on some books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while. One of the books that’s appealed to me (and, unfortunately, has been on my tablet way too long) is “Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. It’s a book about a man and his son taking a motorcycle road trip across the country and the father’s quandaries into life. It was written in the mid-1970s, before all the digital takeover, and questions a lot things that we take for granted in our lives.

The book was hard to get into at first because it was written from a perspective that is very different from mine. In fact, it heavily resembles my father’s writing style. In Myers-Briggs jargon, the book would be written from an ISTJ perspective. It’s incredibly sensory and the details tend to focus on what’s going on around him, like a journal, rather than cutting straight to the point. It’s not bad, it’s just a non-conventionally slower book. You have to really dive into it and take in all the details rather than rush through.

The reason I wanted to write about it tonight is because there’s been this static in the background of my life for the last year or so. The book brought this to the front of my mind. It’s a sound that upon introduction would be noticed but can blend very easily if introduced over time. That sound for me has been, “you can’t write about something unless you are an expert in it. No one will believe you or care about what you have to share”.

It’s silly when it’s written out but this kind of took over my life. There’s a stigma is society that you must know something and be competent in it before you can say anything about it. However, this makes it nearly impossible to talk about anything. Especially if you’re a jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none.

Z&AMM has opened my mind to this somewhat and made me realize that I don’t care if I’m competent before I share something. Part of exploration is the unknown, and I don’t have to explore the whole island before I start talking about it.

Buddhism is an incredibly easy topic for me because so much of it is an individual experience. It’s something that everyone can talk about because there is no right answer with it. The reason that I have so many blogs and groups is because I’ve wanted to focus a lot of attention on specific areas. Without a dedicated page I think that I’ve felt that I cannot speak about a topic.

Navel Oranges Music Blog is a perfect example of this. Part of my frustration with the blog is that there are so many music blogs out there. Why would anyone care what I have to say about it, or who am I to say anything about this band? I never took music theory and I can’t pick up a guitar and play.

That does not exclude me from the discussion though, and that was something I was mistaken about. I can write about any topic that I want to, you can write about any topic that you want to. That’s what is so beautiful about the internet. We tend to look for experts in subject and neglect everyone else, thinking that we can’t say anything or our opinion is of no value. However, that is not the case; everyone’s input is valued.

I took the Strength Finder 2.0 test online (it’s a book to find your skills) a couple months ago and my strengths were (in this order);
1. Input
2. Ideation
3. Intellect
4. Woo
5. Positivity

Basically I take this to mean that a huge part of my being is consuming media and information. The intellect is processing it and creating ideas (ideation). This teams up with woo (loving to meet new people and make new friends) and positivity to create something beautiful;

I love ingesting the world, thinking about it, generating ideas, and telling them to people to help uplift them. Lately I’ve been neglecting the sharing and generating ideas. This is the end to that block and I’m going to start focusing on expressing myself further. After all, isn’t that what the 365 project is for?


P.S. To all of my friends who use the excuse that they can’t blog because they don’t have time, I’m currently on break from a 12-hour shift at work. 😛 You can squeeze blogging in anywhere.