What do you do when your inspiration for a creative project runs dry? When it seems that you cannot make any progress on it at all? What causes this dearth, and how can it be overcome? As a writer and artist, I have often wrestled with these questions.
With my books, I often run into a “writer’s block” where I am unable to continue the story even though I want to. That often leads to procrastination, which does not help the situation at all. To get past the block, I have to motivate myself to sit down at the computer and write. When I buckle down and tell myself, “You will write another chapter on this book!” that usually gets the creative juices flowing again.
For me, art takes even more willpower. Sometimes I’ll fall into an “art slump” where I do not draw anything for months at a time. Then, when I actually do want to sketch something, it turns into a horrible abomination that should never see the light of day. That is what happens when you get rusty at something. You still retain the talent you’ve always had, but it takes a lot more effort to get the gears turning again.
I have found that it is much easier to get back into writing than drawing when I’m rusty. Perhaps it’s because I always have a story in my mind and more firmly grasp the rules of writing than the rules of art. Perhaps it’s because art has a more concrete standard by which it is judged (you are attempting to mimic reality). You can compare your books to someone else’s, but every writer has their own strengths, weaknesses, and quirks that compose their unique “voice.” Even authors with vastly different voices can be equally loved and respected in the writing community. Writers string together words in a way that follows the rules of language and sounds good. With so many different ways to convey the same thought, there is no hard standard of what makes writing “right.”
Art is similar in that everyone has different ways of drawing. It’s truly amazing how vastly different yet equally beautiful art styles can be. Yet with art, there is to some extent a standard. We study anatomy and use reference pictures to make sure that our drawings are proportioned correctly (unless you are Picasso). Even with styles like abstract art, we still try to mix colors in a way that is pleasing to the eye. Whether you specialize in realism, cartoons, comics, manga, abstracts, or pixel art, what you draw should generally be recognizable or convey an idea that the audience can understand.
Knowing and applying the rules of a craft is a step toward proficiency. I have been drawing and writing for my whole life, but I still have so much to learn. I love when a project finally takes shape and matches the vision I see in my mind, but that doesn’t always happen. It takes a lot of courage to dust yourself off after a failure (whether that failure is real or perceived; we creative individuals can be very hard on ourselves sometimes).
With both writing and art, the practice and study of the craft are essential (this is learning the “rules” that you need to know to become proficient). You have to read books, learn from other artists, study techniques, endure dry spells, and be willing to make a few (or a lot of) mistakes as you improve.
This is a message to my fellow artists and writers: instead of comparing your work to others’ and becoming discouraged, use that to motivate you to become better. Instead of saying, “I could never do something like that,” tell yourself, “One day I will do that!”
Most recently, I have been watching a lot of animators on YouTube and feeling a desire to do the same thing even though I am nowhere near that level of skill. Will that stop me? Will I ignore the spark of creativity and let it fizzle away, or will I do the best that I can right now in hopes of one day accomplishing that lofty goal?
The answer is that I will do the best I can with the talents I have right now. I look to great authors like Andrew Peterson, L.M. Montgomery, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis for inspiration. I honestly do not know where my writing would be if their books did not exist. The worlds of Pinterest and YouTube have also been huge inspirations for my artistic pursuits.
I may not be able to animate yet, but I can try drawing an animatic. Even if I fail, at least I have devoted time to improving my skills. I have become better at art than I was before, and that counts for a lot. The same is true of writing. Even if you never manage to finish that book or short story or screenplay, you have invested your time and talents into a worthwhile pursuit. There is no waste if you have been practicing, learning, and growing.
So write on, writers! Keep sketching, artists! Don’t let that creative spark die. Work on a project you’re passionate about and share it with friends who will encourage you. Always seek to improve, but don’t get discouraged by how much better or more successful someone appears to be. You can be inspired by what they have accomplished. When you look back in a year or two, you’ll see just how much your skills have improved.
This doesn’t just apply to artists and writers. To all of you who love science, mathematics, debate, handcrafting, music, and whatever else you might be interested in, you have just as much potential! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Work to be better and better at your craft, and people will start to take notice.
Thank you for reading, friends, and have a wonderful week.
Until next time,