The Carrot Cake Theory: Writer's Block, Anxiety and Creative Genius
If the recipe says add 3 grated carrots, can we go ahead and call the cake vegan?
As the founder of an online platform - this being the word of choice since magzine is too intimidating sometimes and blog has been butchered by social media - a consistent ability to generate content is a must.
Let's think about that for a second.
This means that every week an article should appear, or a piece of writing is required to surface out of the buzzing and chaotic backend of my mind. As a writer, musician, artist, or "creative" human in general, it is known that producing work can be one of the most simultaneously daunting and exhilarating of processes.
Anxiety is a very real and seldom addressed inevitability in the creative process, however quite recently more articles, posts, and satirical memes have cropped up making the topic more open for discussion. To be very clear, I'm not talking about anything serious or even necessarily medical, but merely the immense feeling of being overwhelmed by the thoughts in your own mind. The "creative genius" within you, which you are required to then harness, and formulate into substantial and meaningful work.
The ideas. The process. The vision you have for your work, can very often come with a significant serving of anxiety on the side.
It usually goes a little something like this ... Where do I start? What do I write about? Which pen do I use or which color palette will suit this painting best? Where is the right beat? What angle do I take the picture from? and at what point can we call the image composition groundbreaking?
Creativity is a gift, and being able to produce work that people can relate to on a personal level is the point of what we do as artists.
But I have a suggestion, for the days when you don't feel so creative, for the days when you're staring at a blank word document wondering what ever happened to your inspiration, to that brilliant story whose character's names you can no longer recall. To that dream you had of a beautiful image you wanted to manifest into reality, but somehow lost the ability to paint or draw.
My suggestion is let it go.
Move on. Draw something else. Do some free writing, challenge yourself to listen to a new genre of music in the hopes of coming across a fresh source of enlightenment.
Break the rules and ignore what is expected of you for that week or day or moment in time. Post an image instead of an article, create a section on your website that allows for days like these to happen. For improvisation, and motivation and allow space for your mind to play.
On Radical, our Instagram account acts a tumblr-ish space for ideas to keep rolling, and images that inspire to remain present, reminding our audience of who we are and what we stand for. A vibrant, bold, colorful and at times eccentric platform for the discussion of all things inspirational. This is a platform that encourages the sporadic "creative genius" to arrive when it feels like it, and leave when it is tired for the time being.
In my first year of college, my Creative Writing 102 professor assigned us a Ted Talk that I still reference to this day. It features Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert discussing how she views her own "Creative Genius" as a force that comes and goes when it pleases. As an entity of its own, which she has no actual power or control over. A liberating idea. I would highly recommend this talk to anyone looking to find an explanation for the elusive creative genius, and if that doesn't get the juices flowing, I left my own theory below.
So here goes ...
The Carrot Cake Theory: I think of my creativity the way I think of carrot cake, it's a desert I can eat on any day due to the diversity of its nature. It uses ingredients that I can rationalize to myself as being both "healthy" and "satisfying" in any given state of mind. It is a sweet and sour, sometimes bitter, seemingly harmless sugary cake, a vague creation. But it succeeds in fulfilling its purpose every time. Much like my ability to write, sometimes bitter other times sweet but in the end the outcome is unpredictable and subjective, and I've learned to just go with it. Because the words that come out in moments of spontaneity, are often my best work.