Janice Robinson-Delaney of Ellenwood, GA, asked, "Have you ever experienced what Picasso called 'sterility'? If so, where does it come from and how do you prevent it?"
Thanks, Janice. On the surface, it might seem that Picasso would be the last to worry about this particular problem--he of many periods, prodigious output and overlapping media. Fact is, he was the poster boy of fertility.
Sterility is where you find yourself running on empty. It's not to be confused with "artistic senility"--another condition where the brain, often in old age, begins to run on memory rather than experiencing each work as a new event. We actually learn sterility during our teen years, as societal demands and peer pressure begin to stifle the audacity of the natural child. The sterile adult has feelings of barrenness and loss that can bring on a state of panic.
Fertility, the opposite of sterility, is learned. Curiosity and experimentation are adopted attitudes, and while they fluctuate and at times appear loony, they're largely voluntary.
Picasso was one who understood the private search for "new" because he felt the weight of the public "old." This view may not sit well with artists who honour traditions and time-worn subjects, but even in these there is room for new excitements and subtle evolutions. While we may recognize that a quick antidote is not always going to work, there are ploys that, taken individually or in combination, can do the job. Here are seven:
Change your media.
Mix your media.
Change your working environment.
Change your tools.
Exercise your body.
Study your favourite artists.
Jump around a lot.
If you are a slow worker, speed up. If you are a speedy one, slow down. Above all, grab something and get started. The learned ability of renewal is as necessary to the creative mind as holding a brush. And as brushes are often replaced, there can always be another love.
PS: "Love what you do. Believe in your instincts. And you'd better be able to pick yourself up and brush yourself off every day. While life is not always fair, it is manageable. It's a matter of attitude and confidence." Mario Andretti)
Esoterica: You might also try a nightly affirmation such as "Just for tomorrow I will hone in on what I really want to do." Repeat ten times and run backwards around a moonlit tree at midnight--anything that shakes you up and shines lunar light on your true passions. "People are not lazy," says motivational guru Anthony Robbins. "They simply have impotent goals--that is, goals that do not inspire them."
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