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Covid and the artist: managing the creative blocks

by She Bernfeld, Certified clinical social worker

You go to Instagram to kill time, and there you see it: another post touting a quarantine accomplishment. It could be a before and after photo, a new piece of art someone made, a financial goal achieved, but whatever it is, you feel bad. You know if you keep logging in to social media it will make you feel bad, but you can’t help but think that maybe you deserve it. After all, you have more time than ever. Shouldn’t you have something to show for this? Why can’t you overcome this creative block? Why can not you to motivate oneself?

Social media don’t tell the whole truth

Working almost exclusively with artists and creatives throughout the pandemic, I can confidently say that the above experience is not unique. And artists aren’t the only ones struggling to stay motivated right now – many people struggle with their day-to-day tasks. While on social media we see the bright, polite versions of everyone, in therapy people are (ideally) showing their real selves. In sessions, my clients tell me about their frustrations with themselves and their perception that everyone is “Making the most of” the quarantine time. The truth, however, is that not everyone has mastered the art of sourdough, decluttering their home, or writing the next great American novel. The reality is that people are trying to find light in our current situation. By reframing the narrative – this time calling for maximum productivity – people are trying to cope with the hardships of life in quarantine.

Reframing Falls Short

While the desire to reframe quarantine time into something positive is understandable, the results are sadly more damaging. Those who struggle to use their time effectively and to create face the burden of not living up to those expectations. I spend quite a bit of time normalizing these experiences, dispelling the myth that midlife is the best time to be creative. Feelings, however, do not immediately disappear when presented with the truth. the burden of not being “enough” right now is difficult to shake off. This burden alone is enough to kill the desire to create and stifle the hope that it is worth trying to create now.

COVID as trauma

But why do so many artists and creatives struggle to do what they do best?

The answer lies mainly in the fact that we are currently experiencing chronic trauma. There have been improvements, but the reality remains that as a society we have to deal with the death of many people while still having some fear that we or our loved ones will get sick afterwards. While pain can certainly be a motivation to create or an inspiration to do so, trauma is not just any type of pain. Trauma like the one we are going through now, trauma of life and death, can be debilitating, exhausting and exhausting. This in itself can be a source of creative blocks. Plus, we don’t just deal with trauma, we also deal with quite a bit of change. We’ve had to completely rework our lives, our daily routines, and all of this while losing access to some of our most important supports. With our minds and hearts devoured by so many other questions, is there really any question that we are struggling to use time effectively? Is it any wonder that we are not the best of ourselves?

Acceptance as a starting point

So what does this mean for the artist? How to get back to creation?

This is where acceptance comes in. It may seem counterintuitive, but accepting where you are now is the only way to come up with something new! Accepting that you are struggling right now, and accepting that you might not be able to be the person you want to be right now, is the most useful thing you can do to change. It can be scary for some to come to terms with where they are right now. They think acceptance means renouncing change, but that does not necessarily mean. It means to stop beating yourself up and start observing your situation.

Moving forward

To continue to expect to be a super-productive, super-inspired version of yourself right now is to deny reality. Acceptance promotes change because it allows you to solve the real problems. If you continue to focus on yourself as the problem, you are unable to deal with what is holding you back. If you are continually fighting over how you aren’t creating, doing enough, overcoming any creative blockages that you are having, you are spending your precious energy on something that you cannot afford right now. If you continuously fight, you lose confidence in yourself and you lose hope that it is worth trying to make a difference. However, if you unconditionally accept your current position, you can release the pressure and make room again for creative expression.

So find patience within yourself. Believe that if you give yourself space to treat whatever happens, you can move forward.

To find a therapist who will understand you and support you as an artist, click here to search for your region, then use the Common Specialties> All Other Issues> Creative Blocks filter.

© Copyright 2020 All rights reserved. Publication authorization granted by, therapist in Seattle, Washington


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