We often talk of “turning over a new leaf” with relish. The prospect of a fresh start is almost always an attractive one: the opportunity to renew one’s creativity is presented and indeed symbolised by a new sheet. Whether it consists of paper or pixels, the prospect of a fresh, unmarked page can evoke delight and anticipation or, just as often, can bring with it worry that the marks to be made upon it may be of inferior quality or, worse still, may not be forthcoming at all.
Much has been made of “writer’s block” and many illustrious scribes have had their literary and personal careers ravaged by it and its repercussions. Lucky indeed is the writer who can sit down to work in the certainty that the outcome will be sufficient and satisfactory. Conversely, terrified is he or she who spends hour upon hour wresting with a blank page, faced with a paucity of worthwhile ideas or frozenly unable to write about the few good ones that emerge.
It is perhaps one of the worst of discoveries to realise that one has nothing to say, no ideas to express, no opinions to advocate. In such cases, panic can set in, especially if deadlines loom and this panic serves only to reinforce the constipation of useful ideas or their means of expression. It is perhaps the worst of perceived creative failings to be unmasked as someone who has nothing to say.
There is hope, however, in the form of the expressive process. By sitting down to write or draw and simply beginning to do so, we engage with the numinous qualities of self-expression: the creative act may begin with a mumble, a doodle or a scrawl of no apparent consequence but even these markings, however humble, signify the act of engagement with the process of creative expression and give us something upon which to reflect. It seems to me that the appearance of this crucial signifier offers even the most blocked of artists a measure of reassurance that their present condition is not immutable and that a measure of perseverance may yet bring forth something worthwhile.
It’s hard sometimes to respond to questions like “what do you think about such-and-such?” when the truth is that you’ve not given the matter any real thought or have abandoned it as not being worthwhile or rewarding enough to pursue. This is not the same as having no ideas or opinions of one’s own and yet, in expressive modalities, we are wont to confuse our failure to engage with superficialities with an absence of creative potential or activity. Our failing (if failing it be) is one of preoccupation with what we perceive to be weightier matters to the detriment of trivia. This may well be the price demanded by the creative muse and it is a real price indeed for it places the creative artist (in the broadest sense) at odds with the rest of society. When dialogue between the two factions is possible at all, it may often be fraught, fragmentary and frustrating.
In a real sense, by making a commitment to creativity, we risk alienation and even ostracism either wholly or in significant part and that alone may be a reasonable excuse for putting down the pen, logging out and leaving the canvas untouched. It seems that there may be social merit in creative silence but somehow it leaves one feeling un-naturally blank. Some people simply have to talk…….