#42. The Blank Canvas & It’s Curse...
You’ve gone to Eckersley, you’ve decided to begin a new painting, or maybe you’ve just bought a new iPad Pro and you’ve downloaded procreate or sketch and you have opened a blank page.
Now all you know is that you want to draw or paint something.
Maybe you have a notepad in hand and you're about to write your first New York Times bestseller.
You’ve got your favourite album on or you’re listening to Making Lemonade w/ Jordan Morpeth (wink, wink).
You sit, and you sit and you wait and one song goes by, then two songs, then three and before you know it you’re back on your phone checking your Instagram for inspiration with not a scratch of ink or pencil on your blank canvas.
The blank canvas screams at you, you’re useless, why can’t you create?!
You suck at this what’s wrong with you you’ve done this before just make me beautiful.
This is the curse of the blank canvas and I want to talk to you this week on how you can shake it.
First thing I have to say to you about the blank canvas, if you feel cursed by it then you have the power to shake it.
You see the blank canvas’ curse is not based around, “creative or writer's block”, This doesn’t come for lack of inspiration or skill.
It isn’t a mental health issue or a “chemical imbalance”
Creative block is something that comes from within.
Aaron Draplin explains creative block like sunscreen, we relish in it and we put it all over our bodies until we just can’t create.
Creative block is something that I am currently suffering from as I write this.
However, you wouldn’t know that because I, at this moment am combating creative block by continuing to write.
This is because I am pushing through and writing whatever comes to my mind about this and what you will hear is the final draft.
Creative block can be combatted many ways, however, the most foolproof way is to just fucking do something.
Let’s go back to the original blank canvas.
I ask you one question, why does it have to look perfect?
Why does it have to be beautiful, is making mistakes not the best way to learn about what not to do and what to do next time?
This is how we combat creative block, by not acknowledging its existence and just creating regardless of its beauty and perfection.
Perfection is for unrealistic conservative types, that’s not you because you are creative.
You’re messy and unorganised, you’re tired at your day job because you stayed up last night writing or drawing or whatever it is you do in your studio.
You’re working 3 jobs just to afford convention tables, studio equipment or acting classes.
How could you be blocked when you’re friends say let's go jump off waterfalls and hike up mountains, you’re saying yes because that makes me feel alive and when I feel alive I create masterpieces!
You can hardly afford a website but you manage to because all you want is to design shit for people because that’s what you’re good at and what you’re not doing it your going mad.
You do six, seven, eight drafts because you want to show the world your best work.
You write your magnum opus at a coffee shop or draw the single greatest comic you’ve ever drawn in your mum's basement.
All because you are a creative, you are worthy to lift that creative hammer and scream into the either I am the creator and I am worthy.
I am worthy.
I sanction a guess that if you are a creative, you probably find it very hard to say those words in your head, let alone out loud.
In fact, I doubt a lot of you creatives out there have ever said that before.
This is an interesting concept because I personally believe that this is the key to ridding yourself of the black canvas.
Well, think about all of the emotions you get when you stare at that ever so daunting blank canvas?
“It won’t be good enough”, “it has to be perfect”, “I don’t know where to start”, “I have no ideas”.
These are all your programming in your subconscious making up intangibles excuses and insecure lies about your ability and worthiness of filling that canvas.
Now I am in no way trying to deny the validity of writers or creative block, I will, however, deny that it is out of anyone’s control.
That it is some sort of Omnipresent deity that one must first fight off to get to creativity.
This is bullshit.
This is simply fear. Fear is what is holding you back from just creating.
You need to allow yourself to create garbage.
From the garbage, contrary to popular belief, is where the masterpieces come from.
Why do you think that Artists sketchbook so much?
The sketchbook is essentially and garbage filter.
It allows us to get all the scratchy, scrawly, bullshit so that the good works can shine.
I find myself scrawling out poses on works and sketching ugly circles and rectangles that kind of, sort of resemble that which I am trying to draw.
Then I place another layer on top of that sketch and refine it a little bit more, then another and another until it becomes as detailed as I’d like it to be.
This is the same as the drafting process on a novel or screenplay that most writers use to build their final product.
A common misconception of creatives is that they should be able to just spit out the final product in the first draft and this is absolute and utter nonsense as very few can do this and if they can now it does not mean they have always done so.
Eminem has been known to sit for up to four hours, working on 2 lines of rhyme, Paul McCartney and John Lennon spent hours refining each other’s work until it was basically unrecognisable, which part was written by who.
Why do you think that some artists trace to start with and all artists start with a pencil?
Good art takes time and sitting there staring at the blank canvas does not magically make it appear.
Karl Iglesias is a screenwriter and script doctor and he says that writing, not unlike a plumber is a job.
A plumber never says that he has plumbers block, he just shows up and does his job.
The only way you are going to overcome creative block is to turn up.
Sit down and work on something every day.
Draw, write, act, rehearse, record, work.
Not unlike the man in the suit, who grinds every day to make it o the top of his company and industry.
The only way you will defeat your creative block is to work every single day and always have something to do.
Just make something.
Are you worthy?
There is a simple answer to this question.
Creativity begins with a spark, if you have it you’ll know.
It’s that niggling feeling in your spine that you must create.
It’s that thing in the back of your head telling you to pick up the pen and draw or write.
It’s the feeling that you get when you come home from work and instead of slouch in front of the Tv, you want to pick up your guitar or your contra or your sketchbook or notepad and just create.
Now how do I know you’re worthy, because I was you once.
I was the casual creative who couldn’t seem to stop himself from drawing and writing music.
I let it get in my head when people told me the music I was writing sucked.
It took me a long time to come to the conclusion that I am worthy of creation and all that I create because only I can create what I create.
Only I can give my voice to my work and that is the secret sauce that no one else has on me.
Take the mighty hammer of Thor, Mjilnor.
In Avengers: Endgame, Thor is feeling lost and unworthy when he travels back in time to obtain the Reality Stone with Rocket Racoon.
He runs into his mother in the past, who sits him down and discusses with him how the feelings of unworthiness he is feeling are invalid.
He is a good man and he made a decision that he must now step up and face head-on. Pun intended.
He then stands up and says to rocket one more thing.
He throws his hand out to hopefully capture Mjolnir from the past, at that moment the hammer flies to him and his expression changes rapidly to a giant smile and he says “I am still worthy”.
This scene is interesting as I feel we all need our version of Mjolnir.
I find that my Mjolnir is my pen.
If I can continue to pick it up and write these episodes of the podcast and continue to draw, I am worthy.
I’ve never had my pen not allow me to pick it up, but in a way, it does speak to me.
I have a spiritual relationship with my pen, so too do a lot of artists and writers.
This is how I find my worthiness. Perhaps I need to give my pen an ancient Viking name like “The Starbreaker” or “Colour Maker”.
My point here is that your feelings of unworthiness will come from within and only from within until you change that.
We all have programming and as the author of “The Road Less Travelled” Scott Peck calls it, your road map.
Until you change that road map and reprogram your brain to believe in your own worthiness, regardless of what any others will say, you will never be worthy of the mighty sword of creativity.
Be Captain America!
Throw your hand out, in the direction of your Mjolnir, even though you're not sure of the result and scream “Bring me Thanos!”
Conquer that alien army and stand tall, face to face, with no backup, only yourself and hope by your side.
You watch, The Avengers will assemble behind you and they will in time believe in you because you showed them that one man or woman, could face down their Thanos and say, not today!
For I am worthy and I will fight for my right to create until my dying breathe!
Show that Blank Canvas who is the real hero.