How Mantras Can Help with Creative Blocks

September 22, 2009
Om - make your own mantra

Om - make your own mantra

Posted by Leslie Zeigler

It is only natural for anyone, whether an experienced artist or a novice at being creative, to have moments of feeling  stuck and frustrated.  It does not feel good to be in a state of inertia.

People will often fill that void with critical comments from their inner critic.  But it is actually much betterto learn a compassionate way to talk to yourself.

Instead of  being critical, create a MANTRA that works for you.

An example might be : “I am stuck and right now that is okay.   This too shall pass and I am confident that my creative juices will flow again soon.”   It doesn’t really matter the exact details of how you frame this.  It is the tone that  matters.

When someone is struggling  with feeling stuck , it is natural to focus primarily on how to get unstuck.  While that is certainly important,  it is also helpful to find a way to allow yourself to just  accept how you feel in the moment and let it be.

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Coffee and Creativity

September 15, 2009
Creative Fuel

Creative Fuel

Posted by Deborah Atherton

When Leslie and I meet to work on our creativity book (in progress, stay tuned) or our blog, the first thing we do is order coffee. We’ve never discussed this, but it has become our ritual, born in the days when we began meeting at (appropriately enough) the Art Café on Broadway. We usually order a meal or snack with it, but until the coffee is in our cups, we don’t start tossing ideas back and forth.

What is it about coffee? Or is it about coffee? Well, of course, it is in part about the coffee itself, which has the pleasing effect of sharpening our minds and waking us up, good preparation for creative work of any kind. But to tell you the truth, usually by the time we get together in early afternoon, we have both switched to decaf for the day, so the salutary effects of caffeine aren’t really part of the equation.

What it is really about, I think, is the ritual. Since coffeehouses came into vogue several hundred years ago, people have been meeting over cups of coffee to talk. And it seems to me, that over most of my writing career, whenever anyone had anything important to discuss with me or any new collaboration was beginning, it was always over a cup of coffee or tea. In the first writer’s workshop I ever joined, back in Connecticut somewhere in the Mesozoic era, we depended on several pots of coffee to get us through the night, and although the caffeine consumption may now have declined several workshops later, the ritual holds firm.

Rituals help us over that little hesitation most of us feel when beginning a new project or picking up the old ones after any kind of break. Many of us can’t sit down at our computers or at our easels without a cup of coffee or tea beside us; and you’d be hard put to find a day time rehearsal for any kind of ensemble that wasn’t fueled by Starbucks. We relax a little when we lift those cups to our lips; it’s the beginning of a chain of actions that we know (without having to think about it) will lead to us getting back into the flow of our work.

If you haven’t got a ritual, you might try inventing one that suits you. It doesn’t have to be coffee. It might be a walk around the block, or listening to some music that sets you in the right direction. I know a painter who swears by Diet Coke and a writer who likes to pop a chocolate truffle. The form of the ritual doesn’t matter; but the consistency does. If you repeat the same small action every time you sit down to work, you’re giving yourself a handy creative cue, and making what comes next just a little bit easier.


Think Big Start Small

September 9, 2009

Posted by Leslie Zeigler

Over the Labor Day weekend,  while reading the Oprah Magazine, I came across a brief article written by Oprah herself, entitled  HERE WE GO.

In it, she talks about the concept “small is the new big. ” She goes on to describe Jay-Z  as a  person who has seen first hand  how starting small can lead to some REALLY BIG THINGS.  

This article and this concept, in particular, led me to connect  to the idea of creative blocks.  It is so common for people to find themselves daydreaming about wanting to be on the Oprah Show  to introduce their new novel, dance, song, or other creative pursuit but they usually soon remind themselves to STOP.  Their internal message might be , “why dream, this will never happen”  or ” I am being silly.”

The specific self-limiting thought is not the point.  The point is that to DREAM BIG  can be scary.  So rather than stopping,  people need a non-threatening way to begin a creative pursuit or to sustain one.

People will give many reasons why they are not working on their creative dream.   A very common one is  ” I don”t have the time.”  Other blog posts here have already mentioned messages people give for not getting started.  In my last post I suggested just starting with  One Small Step as a way of quieting an internal message of fear.  I am repeating that recommendation here, not to be redundant,  but because it is so true. It might seem so obvious as to not need to be mentioned.  Yet it needs to be repeated.  Getting started can be  as simple as spending five minutes during your morning shower thinking,  just thinking,  about some creative idea you might want to pursue. For those of you already engaged in a creative project who are having difficulty returning to it, it can be the same thing. You can just start brainstorming with yourself while doing your grocery shopping. YOU GET TO DECIDE  what the idea will be, the when and where it  will be worked on, the time spent  and the daily, weekly or monthly frequency, but the main point is:

JUST make sure that you take that first or 50th step.  It is doubtful you will regret it.