The Joy of Creativity... The Agony of Creative Blocks

Doodle Therapy - Winged Floral Spirit - Patricia Kay
Nothing makes me happier than being in the process of creating.  It calms me, liberates my spirit and gives me a greater sense of purpose than anything else... and it can cause me the most grief when I encounter a creative block.

I started the doodle above a few days ago and loved its shape and flow, but then I got fixated on its imperfect lines and whether it was complete.  Once that discussion in my mind takes hold, things go nowhere.  When I went back to my drawing, the whole debate raged on.

I am finding that sometimes the pieces that I like the most - the ones that flow the easiest in the first stages - are the ones that are sometimes the hardest to finish.  It took me a while before I started to question why.  

I usually follow my impulses and intuition; however, there are times when that little nagging voice comes back to torment me!  Often, I will come to a point where I don't know what I want to do next, so I will sit and stare at my work imagining what the choices will look like or "air draw" it. 

But if I do this too long, that annoying little voice will creep in with its cynical opinion. And once the thinking starts - I'm done!  I have to walk away.  Progress will come to a halt.

I have learned, over the years, many ways to get around this, not that it always helps.
  • Walking away and coming back for a fresh start sometimes helps, but then valuable time is lost.  
  • Working on diminishing the value of the inner critic helps, but that's an on-going process that has proved to be more challenging than I thought.
  • Even exercise works to bring me back to a "feel good" state, but that also takes valuable time away.  Of course, if it can do that while also being beneficial to your health, then it's worthwhile... I suppose - but, I'd rather be creating.
The bigger issue is, why don't I know what I want to do next?  Is it really that I don't know?Now I go through a little interrogation process to get to the bottom of it.  For me, it's usually one of four possibilities:
  • I'm afraid that I will ruin it with the next step (as a recovering perfectionist, this is a constant struggle).
  • I'm still getting caught up in what others will think.
  • The initial feeling or vibe has shifted. I prefer to work in an expressive, abstract style, which can be a problem if you don't finish the concept in one sitting - what you were feeling may be gone when you get back to it.
  • The debate over whether it's finished.

Sometimes it's a combination of the above.  I don't always need to get to the root of the issue, I just need to clear out all the clutter going on to get back in the creative zone.

This is where the Daily Doodle Journal is most helpful.  If I take 5-10 minutes to doodle or "scribble out" the clutter, I can get back on track.  

If I'm stressed or feeling anxious, the doodles/scribbles will look that way to me - and that's the point of taking the time to draw what you are feeling - it gets it out on paper.  It may seem over simplified, but getting it out on paper dissipates the emotion.  If you're worried about wasting paper on scribbles, try using newsprint sketch pads or see what you can find at the dollar store.  

Once you start doing this, personal symbols and different drawing styles will appear representing how you feel.  The goal is to do very quick drawings and continue to do pages until you feel the energy shift to a positive state (see below).

Sometimes you may get the urge to do a more detailed drawing in a style that is unfamiliar to you.  Don't fight the urge or judge it - just do it, even if it looks weird to you.  It's something that needs to be expressed and has a message that may or may not be understood at the moment.

The picture below shows my first two entries.  Repetitive horizontal and vertical lines, for me, are usually signs of frustration, indecision or stress.  The level of darkness of the line is the intensity of what I am feeling.

What I was feeling at the time was more about negativity that was going on around me.  I was starting to feel weighted down. Just writing "STOP" was enough to feel a little release.  In my next entry, there is still a similar look in the shape and symbol, but it is less chaotic and intense.

The energy shifted in the next entry with the "beet person".  There is still some downward symbolism in the roots/body, but there is also the balance on the upside with the leaves - this is a common theme for me. Adding the face for my own amusement, created a deeper shift to a positive state.  You can see, the lines are more curved, relaxed and flowing in the following entry.  Curved, meandering lines show up in my drawings when I am in a positive, receptive state.  It's important to note that the intent of this technique is not to create great art.  It's using art with a mind-body-spirit approach to work through creative blocks.

The next set shows the total shift.  The final drawing is a symbol of flow for me. There is balance up, down and across with an upward emphasis.  It looks different and felt different while drawing it.

This whole process works well because it is spontaneous and expressive - you allow your hand to be guided by your feelings or intuition - no thinking or deliberate action allowed.  

Usually, a few minutes is all that it takes, but if your are new to this, you may find yourself doing page after page.  I spent about about 10 minutes on these and was able to get back on track and get back to completing my doodle.  I know; all this for a doodle?

But here are the biggest benefits:  It is in this open, creative state, when the answers to your questions will flow freely without any effort.  In the beginning, it may take some time to reach that sub-conscious level, but once you are comfortable with being open and receptive, it will become automatic.  Best of all, as you progress, your style and technique will begin to transform and truly look like an expression of your creative inner spirit.

The simple doodle is the vehicle that will take you on your journey.

Happy Doodling!