“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” ― Kurt Vonnegut
We’ve all been there — searching, struggling and utterly stumped, sitting there at a complete loss. It’s the greatest violation of the freedom of expression for those of us who are afforded such a luxury. It’s the dreaded creative block.
In my experience, inspiration is an extremely fickle beast. It comes and goes as it wishes. One moment, its unrelenting grip causes eating, sleeping, and functioning as a human being to be near impossible until the ideas have been given form. The next, it suddenly vanishes like smoke. Whether you’re working on an essay, a painting, or even a headline, sometimes the spark just isn’t there. Sometimes finding the right words is a losing battle. If only inspiration were a tangible being that you could wrestle into submission. Instead, our minds, emotions, and circumstances conspire to prevent us from moving forward. All too often, we’re our own worst enemies.
Some people seem to possess a bottomless well of creativity. I’ve witnessed street artists create beautiful works from scratch day after day. I’ve seen other dancers come up with ingenious choreography on the spot. My fellow Odyssey writers continue to surprise me every week with content that manages to be fresh and relatable all at once. It can be truly astonishing to witness such brilliance up close.
It can also be daunting. I admit to being a little jealous at times. The urge to compare myself to others is seriously tempting. Sometimes it’s easier to claim a lack of talent rather than a lack of imagination. In a society that revels in the thrill of innovation and encourages people to stand out, the former certainly seems more acceptable. Calling someone unoriginal is the ultimate slight.
In addition, lack of a muse can cause more problems than just a bruised ego. Procrastination often ensues as the search for ideas comes up empty. Completing an assignment takes twice as long as anticipated. Deadlines can be an absolute nightmare, not to mention the awful feeling of submitting work that you’re not proud of. When your creations feel lackluster, it is difficult to show others the fruits of your labor. Embarrassment becomes a hindrance to personal growth.
So, what to do when this common illness strikes? As it’s pretty much a psychological issue, I would recommend banging your head against the wall and screaming at the top of your lungs until the creative juices flow. Just kidding. There are really three courses of action that can be taken either separately or concurrently. One, seek to overcome your creative rut by taking little actions that psychologists recommend, such as changing up the scenery or identifying your problem areas. Two, just accept that you won’t be able to showcase the best of your abilities, turn in mediocre work, and call it a day. Three, take full advantage when fits of inspiration strike so that future dry spells are less detrimental. I can offer no better solutions at this time as I’m also drawing a blank. May the odds be ever in your favor.