Anyone who knows me, knows that I am an avid fan of the band U2 (the Irishmen Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam), for many musical and musical performance reasons, but amongst others, for them coming up with what I believe, is the best piece of music ever written (an easily debated topic amongst many.. but that for another day)..
Their hit song, Where The Streets Have No Name, is the first track off their very successful 80's album, The Joshua Tree. The song was about streets in Belfast, Ireland, but the song also has a history of being very difficult to create, with various attempts, even an almost "deliberate accident" created to erase the tapes and start over, but it was saved through a "tea-dropping incident", and it survived through the creative process to become an iconic hit song. As U2's Drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. later said of the song, "It took so long to get that song right, it was difficult for us to make any sense of it. It only became a truly great song through playing live. On the record, musically, it's not half the song it is live.."
The song has the lyrics:
"..I want run, I want to hide, I want to tear down the walls, that hold me inside..
I want to reach out, and touch the flame.. where the streets have no name.."
These lyrics I have, at some point in my life, adopted to represent, and be an ode to, the all familiar, ever present, and always frustrating, artist block, in the creative process..
This phenomena, experienced by many artists, writers and other creative people, has been explored by many, but is essentially the feeling experienced by creative individuals of wanting to create, but feeling the inability to start, or continue with, or finish an art work, or project..
A good friend of mine, Gordon Macdonald, who is a professional artist, told me once, that the first line of paint on a canvas is the most difficult, and therefore the most important brush stroke of any painting.. it seems many struggle with that first stroke..
Here is my take on this incredibly frustrating, sometimes creatively deliberating, and difficult obstacle, to overcome..
1. Have a dedicated place, studio, room, corner, or area, to paint, work or create, as the availability, storing, and easy access to equipment is vital for creativity. Few amongst us can unpack from storage everything needed for our trade every time a creative urge, or an opportunity to work, presents itself.
2. Have the paints, brushes, thinners, easels, canvasses, film, wood, glue, and / or tools ready to go and available, as anyone that has created a product, knows it's difficult and complicated mediums we work with: messy, smelly, dusty, chemically unstable, propensity for staining, smearing, and spilling, which are difficult to clean up and keep in check. Having to go shopping before creating can be distracting, and demoralizing. Have a blank canvas on an easel - you never know what can happen by walking up to a blank canvas..
3. Have some form of idea of a creative goal or ideal that is doable, and within reasonable reach, which makes it possible to achieve what you set out to do.
4. Try and find a way to work faster, so that you do not get bogged down in initial layout, under painting, or detail required to "move along".. Learn to work efficiently, and confidently, as getting bogged down in endless time consuming details stalls the creative process..
5. Sometimes it really comes down to just stepping forward and laying down the paint on the canvas.. be bold, don't fear, doubt is like the white on the canvas, push it away by letting paint touch canvas..
"I want to reach out, and touch the flame.."
6. Make sure to finish. I have serious trouble sometimes to finish a piece, and have a few unfinished pieces that I have carried with me for a long time already.. to finish opens the door to the start of the next work.
7. There is something to be said for not trying to make a masterpiece of every attempt - do not worry about what others will think of your work (this will be explored further in the future).. create for the sake of creating.. I always say:
"it is the doing, not the product"
When the pressure on how the final product is received by your audience is reduced, it is easier to get started..
8. Stay mobile - move around - the same area / background setting seem to make me not want to start. I do like to move my easel around to different locations..
9. It's not necessarily the best advice, but consider doing a few works at the same time - switching between different works allow growth in dealing with different works and their own unique character - it teaches us to be organised, not only with equipment challenges and overall planning, but also for staying mentally organized by leaving one piece, and taking on another. Also, start the next one right after finishing the last one..
Despite this, my production is relatively low - there is always that voice that seem to say - there are more important things to do - maybe that would be point number 10.. MAKE IT IMPORTANT, your creativity is important - add creativity to your list of things to do.. Like, you need to buy groceries, or fill up the car, this activity is a required activity, which needs its own time..
So my friends, again to those already engaging themselves in creativity - and to those who are thinking about getting creative, and to those who havn't tried it yet; go paint, go film, go cook, go photograph, go write, go garden..
Go WALK "Where The Streets Have No Name".. and "Touch The Flame"..