Why It’s OK to Have a Creative Block


If you’re like me you might not have painted, played music, written, or felt a hint of what to create lately. You might feel that in the great whole of the world you know little to nothing and that it’s all basically been done before. Between the never ending internet and all of the books there are, is there really anything new to comment on that hasn’t already been said? If we post one more comment or ask for one more petition signature, won’t it only be drowned by the millions of cute animal videos and simply add to the clutter on the web of everyone trying to shout their opinions at any chance they get?The other day I found myself deleting an entire article I had written because of this. At the time I had asked myself, “Why add to the clutter?” and I promptly closed my laptop and carried on with my day.

Three years ago I began traveling and learning so much about myself and the world that I found an absolute need to write. I felt like an overflowing cup of water and that if I didn’t get my stories out, or at least some of them, then I was going to burst like a shaken up soda can in some horrific mental breakdown. The word and the physical sensation that defined me at the time was, “full.” I felt too full of thoughts, too full of experience, and I didn’t know what to do with it all. Like a spoiled fat kid with too many ice cream options I was a bit overwhelmed and overly stuffed. I found myself in an existential crisis asking why I was doing so much aimless exploring. What was the meaning behind all of the ice cream? I found release and purpose in sharing my experiences, even if no one read it, at the time it was something I almost physically needed. Writing became my creative outlet. A way to give back, instead of just consuming.

I eventually stopped traveling in such a carefree fanciful way because expenses caught up, I had to work consistently again, and ultimately my existential crisis lead to a desire for future plans and less aimless floating. Time slipped by (as it does) and I’ve currently found myself working on a cruise ship with still no clear plan for my future. Only now I’m wondering what happened to my creative desires to write, inspire, and wonder at this strange experience that is life. I feel tired most of the time and I feel none of that budding wisdom and inner need to write, or create in general, that I felt so often before.

Home right now

Fortunately, travel is a lot healthier than ice cream. I picked up a trick or two on the road, and one of those tricks was meditation. I got really good at meditating after the Vipassana course I took a couple years back, but I’ve since lost the patience and the mental clarity I had briefly acquired. In an attempt to get it back I’ve started to meditate for half an hour in my little closet of a crew cabin on board the ship I’m working on. It was here, floating somewhere in the Atlantic, that I remembered the all too familiar truth about life. It continues and it is now. I don’t need to be depressed about still not knowing what I want to do with my life, just like I didn’t need to be depressed about it before. It’s OK that I’m a little worried about my current lack of creative flow, just like it was OK when I felt overwhelmed before. I am doing things now, just as I will be doing things later, and that is life.

Perhaps more importantly, I remembered the ebb and flow of things. Though admittedly, watching the ocean so much these days might have helped with that too.  When I was a small girl I realized that I could have what felt like the worst day of my life one day and the very next could seem the most fun and exciting. The highs and lows felt extreme, and maybe because of those extremes I was able to realize the constant change of them. Almost subconsciously I began taking note of all the high points and low points as I believe most people do. Like when we look back at the year on January first and say either, “that was a fantastic year!” or “fucking good riddance! Bring on the next one please.”

Watching the ocean on my downtime, (or when I’m bored and staring off during a shift) I can see  the ebb and flow, the constant little waves creating texture on the surface. If you pay attention, along with the little waves you can see larger rolling swells moving the little waves along within them. In our own lives we’re often swimming in the water experiencing the little waves, getting splashed in the face, and the hard part is to look across the greater span of the ocean and see the high points and low points creating deep swells across a lifetime. After all, aren’t most things in this universe actually made up of waves? Light, sound, and gravity for example.


Just like all waves we must make a kind of penance for the highs by experiencing the lows, but it’s never as simple as up and down. Our lives are textured like the ocean, with splashes, highs, and deep long swells that lift us up and take us down again. Looking back on those years of nomadic travel I am sometimes sad that I am not still there. It was as if I plucked out a magic thread interwoven through the fabric of life and it lead me on a fantastical journey full of serendipity and good fortune. Even when things had gone wrong, they were lining up to go incredibly right. I had started to believe in a kind of magic again and it all felt like it was leading somewhere big and exciting. It really didn’t. The wave peaked and rolled back down. I’ve lost my luck for a time and I’m reminded to find contentment in that fact. As the old saying goes, you can’t have the highs without the lows. I am now trying to remind myself to use the falling momentum to aim and lead somewhere else big and exciting when that time rolls back around.

I stopped writing because I felt I was being repetitive. I felt the internet and the world was being repetitive, but a simple fact of life is that many things are repetitive (just like waves) and we often need reminders of that and to come to peace with it. Life isn’t a story book with one exciting climactic ending and a great moral to be learned.  Life is made up of many stories, with many ups and downs and many great morals and things to be forgotten and learned again. That is why I decided to write this article. Everything might have been said before, and there are still thousands of books and articles with thousands of repeated opinions and views, but we can’t really know when the right words might inspire the right person at any given time. We are all riding our waves, creating, or building up momentum to create something soon. Many of us are wondering what the great purpose of it all is, but whatever it is, it continues and it is now.

Nostalgic Revolution


The other night I had a class with one of my advanced adult students. He works as a smart phone app game designer in downtown Hiroshima and loves anything old-school or related to his childhood. I had been looking for an interesting article we could discuss during the lesson and so it was that I stumbled on one from the Wall Street Journal. It was about Lego and the adults who have quit their high-paying jobs to build models for the company. Rest assured though, that they now get paid more for one piece than they would have made at their previous job in a quarter of the year!

After reading the article we started talking about the toys we had played with when we were growing up. The more we talked, the more memories of long-forgotten toys came flooding back. I wasn’t even sure if half of these toys still existed.

We lamented the fact that with so much new technology, kids were more likely to play with a smart phone or an iPad than they were with a physical toy. Toys like Grip-ball or mini or putt putt golf were clearly outside pursuits and we both felt half the kids today barely saw the outside world because they were so focused on the computer screen in front of them. It was sad, we both agreed.

I explained about the spirograph and showed him the wonderful patterns that such a simple tool could make. We sighed about kalidoscopes and the beautiful colours that seemed to magically appear with each twist of the top. Then we moved onto card collecting and the different types of ones that had been popular at some time or another. I suddenly remembered my friends Luke and Shane being obsessed with Garbage Gang cards and how they had spent lunchtimes swapping ones they had in double or sometimes triplicate. And who could forget ant farms? I remembered preparing sand and soil for the narrow plastic containers and then scrambling on the ground trying to catch the poor creatures to fill the ‘city’ I had made for them.

Ah yes and of course, there was the Tamagochi. I was now living in the birthplace of this toy and we both wondered if somewhere in Japan they still existed. Perhaps now they were available as an app instead. I told him how I had tried to ‘feed’ mine during class at school for fear that it would starve to death and I would have to start all over again. I’d been immensely proud when my kitten grew to full size and was approaching the grand old age of 30 when my friend thought it would be funny to kill it by not cleaning up its poop. I was so angry with her that I didn’t talk to her for days. I also cried, but only in the privacy of my own room. How had I become so attached to something that wasn’t even real?!

We finished the lesson with faraway looks in our eyes and dreamy-smiles on our faces. It didn’t matter whether or not these toys still exist or not, they were preserved in our memories and no one could ever take them away from us.

I long for children today to have the chance to play with toys like this, to extract the same simple pleasure that I did. Yes, the technological age that we live in has created some amazing toys: physical, virtual or digital, but I can’t help thinking that these are simply objects, devoid of any type of soul. Do children today feel the same connectedness with their toys that my generation did with ours? Or are they easily abandoned, discarded like rubbish when something new and more advanced comes along? Maybe it’s time to introduce the generation of tomorrow to the childhood toys of generations past. Who knows…perhaps we’ll start a nostalgic revolution.