On maintaining creative flow and getting unstuck when our artistic wheels are spinning

After watching "Catherine Just and Henry Lohmeyer on Inspiration within the stuck places" - a video conversation that grabbed me more than usual - I pondered the idea of what it even means to be stuck creatively. Hearing their admissions of what such blocks "look like" to them, I initially assured myself that being stuck is not my problem. Instead, I lament my time-management skills, along with a disposition that wants to try too many different kinds of things - often within a single week - making it impossible to achieve much of what I want to accomplish.

The idea of being creatively stuck is a familiar one. I'm surrounded by fine artists, writers, and musicians. With the luxury of this ever-present melting pot of ideas, I participate in frequent discussions regarding some of the challenges that can keep us from creating at our highest potential. Regardless of where we are in our own relationship to creativity and the sense that we aren't moving in the direction we'd prefer, I love hearing of other artists' tricks and tips for assisting in their own creative achievements. This video offers two different suggestions for getting unstuck. Each of them triggered ideas for ways I might explore the question of my own creativity and whether or not I'm "unstuck enough" for my own happiness. As is typical, I didn't experience these questions in a linear fashion, and the trigger opened up far more questions than the initial "how do we get unstuck when we need to create?" explored in their conversation.

"Monday's Indulgence" I finished a Zentangle tile and also made a necklace to go with the earrings I'd made the night before.

Having watched the video twice now, then pondering it as I worked, their ideas triggered such sparks that I decided to ignore the non-work, non-photographic, creative projects of Monday's indulgence** and make a few photos, anyway. Momentarily jealous that Henry can "just go get on a train and ride it back and forth, shooting what he sees" as a part of his "getting unstuck process" whereas I'm nowhere near such urban richness right now, I took my cameras outside to see what I could find. Pondering Catherine's intriguing process, too, and its seed for the 20 Images series with which she challenged herself, then opened up to their tribe with the creation of its own Instagram hashtag - #thehereco20 - I decided it didn't matter that I don't have a focus yet for a possible 20-image-series of my own that I would deem "worthy" of contributing to their challenge. I would just shoot what I found. Back to work for several hours, I went outside once again for different light. Back inside, I kept shooting in the low light, too! Creativity awakened!

Three square black and white photos I shot yesterday for possible uploads using #thehereco20 on Instagram:

Always, More Questions than Answers!

Reflection and questions since watching this conversation have yielded much to consider. Among these thoughts:

  • I may not consider myself to be creatively stuck inasmuch as I'm not struggling much these days with finding an outlet for my creative expression, I AM certainly stuck in one area!
  • And that is: my blog. I'm blocked when it comes to choosing what to write about, motivating myself to do it, and even letting myself believe that it matters! It was several years ago now that I intentionally backed away from the once-frequent posting habit and turned my attention to other things. But I never considered how I would successfully navigate "reentry" when I wanted to resume a consistent blogging practice. I've dropped the ball on every previous effort, thus-far. Still the desire persists.
  • Through a certain lens, is being unable to narrow one's focus a way of being creatively stuck? Maybe for some of us it's not an "either/or" proposition but, instead, there are moving points on a continuum, always working toward being less stuck, opening ourselves to opportunities to work from a place of "flow" and achieve a greater sense of creative expression.

**On Monday, I "Indulged" myself creatively. It seems I've convinced myself I have to somehow put a cap on my creative expression and am only allowed to create in the fringes. Because? It feels like play to me, and it doesn't pay my bills. Sure, my client work is enormously creative at times, and it's more rewarding than any job I've had before. Still, it makes me a little sad to realize that in an effort to feel I'm not "playing too much" I'm curtailing my photography and other avenues of artistic expression. Obviously just one more possible topic for a future blog post. As well as further evidence that there may be some additional "stuckness" going on around here. Or am I just making excuses for the fact that my "work-to-play ratio" is a bit skewed, so far this week? Also worth considering.

Screenshot of Some of the Images
Instagram Users have Submitted using #thehereco20:

But What Exactly Am I Doing, & Perhaps More Pressing: What Are The Rules for Participating???

I don't know the rules of this challenge. Obviously I can watch the video yet again - and probably will, too - and read their blog once more, as well. But as of this moment, I simply know that as an exercise in cutting through some personal artistic blockages of her own, Catherine Just has embarked upon taking 20 photos of a dollhouse-sized chair using a Polaroid camera. As of the publishing of their blog post, she had created 14 of the 20. The process was shifting her thoughts, and also offered a dual benefit.***

But we were talking about "rules" here, weren't we?! There are many things I do not yet know for sure about this exercise, but I'm proceeding, anyway, with a group of "rules" I've made up myself:

  • I do not know if one camera is preferred over another, for this challenge. I am shooting some with my iPhone and others with my Canon. But suspect I'll try my best to do as many as possible with the iPhone, since I get the sense that - being Instagram-based - the idea is to focus as much as possible on the subject-selection, framing, and shooting process and much less on post-processing.
  • A significant number of the submissions I've seen thus-far are black and white, and I believe that speaks to the fact that Catherine and Henry seem to shoot "right much" black and white. Therefore, the first 3 images I'm considering are black and white. We'll see if that changes.
  • After posting this, I'm going to "get out of my head" and just try to look for light and interesting snippets around me. I wondered this morning if I wasn't overthinking things. Then decided that's not the case: I'm just attempting to share the thoughts that have emerged, feeling they have potential to encourage others. Worthwhile question, though.

Regardless of whether or not you decide to shoot your own 20 photos, I'd love to know if anyone else watches this video and finds creative value. If so, are you willing to share? Comments below are always welcomed and encouraged!

***This "hashtag challenge" or "photo prompt" or any other possible names for the invitation to post a series of images tagged with #thehereco20 is helping to promote an online course, "Rise", that Catherine and Henry are teaching together. It runs from September 14-20, and you can learn more here.