A Creative Unblocking

A person with shoulder length hair lit from behind, appearing like a shadow, holding a pair of binoculars
“Discovery” by me in 2013.

Over the past three months, I have embarked on a massive creative unblocking, using The Artist’s Way as well as other inspirational tools and readings. During this period of unblocking, I let myself actually think about it and realized that my creative block began back in 2013, the year I graduated high school. During the last eight years, I have wondered a lot about why I couldn’t create in the ways I did as a teenager. When I was a teen, I would write poems, short stories, scripts, and take photos constantly. It was so rare for me to feel any lack of inspiration. Making art was all I craved to do. It often was what got me out of bed in the morning. It was what kept me from feeling like life was impossible. My imagination and creativity carried me through some of the darkest, most confusing times.

Some magic happened recently to me that I immediately knew I needed to document. A few days ago was the first time where I found myself daydreaming about photography, the medium that I was heavily invested in during high school. Back then, I had even been offered a pathway to art school that I passed on. After I graduated, I rarely took photos in the ways that I used to. Photography used to completely consume me. I would spend time almost every day brainstorming ideas for photos. There have been many times over the last eight years where I tried to pick up my camera or think about using it and came out of it feeling entirely defeated. Flash forward to this week, when this spark of something came when I was thinking about how to advertise for one of the upcoming Songs of Ourselves workshops. Suddenly I began thinking about all of these different photo concepts. It was shocking to have that kind of creativity surge through my body again, but it felt like home.

Prior to working through The Artist’s Way, I had never once considered that adulthood hit me so hard that it forced me to shove all my creativity into a box to not be engaged with. But, that’s what happened. When I graduated high school and entered the workforce officially, I started to see the attitude I had towards my art shift towards other areas of my life. For so long, my art was what people praised me for. It was also where I felt the most in control. But I wanted to be a respected adult, and as far as I could tell the creativity I was familiar with could not be a part of that. As a result, I became obsessive about school, grades, and any opportunity that could advance my career. I found myself extremely unhappy and unsatisfied in ways that I didn’t have language for. My creative practices could have given me that language (I know that because they have now), but I just wasn’t ready to engage in that way. I was avoiding anything that would make me look inward and that has always been much of what my creativity asks me to do.

So I let myself drown. I lost a lot of who I was through ignoring my instincts and giving in to the demands of life. I would ignore any moment of inspiration by telling myself to focus on other things, whether it was work or people I had crushes on or opportunities to party with friends or social media, everything I was choosing for myself to be preoccupied with was a distraction. I ignored any voice that was whispering to take notice of what was happening to me. And whenever I drifted into the noticing, I wasn’t equipped to process what I noticed.

There were times that I wrote. When I look at that writing now, I see how intense my emotions were, how splashy they were across the page. There is no foundation. Nothing I wrote then feels grounded in anything. And though the reader might never notice, the writing is painful for me to read. It makes sense that I didn’t want to come to the blank page, since every time I did it resulted in something so chaotic and heavy.

The Artist’s Way blasted me open in a way that I never thought it would. I bought the book thinking it would be a useful tool for me to own as a writing workshop facilitator. I didn’t think it was going to call me out and make me reconsider everything I was doing with my life…but it did. Julia Cameron asked me the toughest questions I have ever been asked. In the last three months, I have become even more aware of the traumas I have experienced and shook by the choices I had made for myself that were only hurting me. Here’s JUST SOME of what happened while I worked through The Artist’s Way:

  • I realized that I repressed my creativity due to trauma
  • I realized that I was incredibly burnt out from working 40+ hours a week
  • I started writing EVERY DAY
  • I was able to see MAGIC in my life
  • I started a book project and a poetry chapbook
  • I put together a Songs of Ourselves zine
  • I feel more capable of being authentic and vulnerable

I tell people now, with my very newfound awareness, that writing every day lets me see myself as a full person. Instead of coming to the page only in moments of extreme emotion or heightened inspiration, I see myself in all of who I am. I see the days when I can barely think of anything to share, I see the times where the writing comes with ease and all the in-between. The reality is, we are often in the middle. Writing in states of neutrality, then reading back what I have written in that state, has taught me so much about who I really am creatively. Prior to this practice, I thought my creativity was tied to a type of madness. I thought I had to be running to the page with an idea for anything to come out. I did not see creativity as something I could access every day. But I do now. Since I have been able to find it myself, I know it’s possible for other people. Below, you’ll find some of the essential texts that have gotten me where I am right at this moment.

Sage’s Essential Texts for Creative Unblocking

*note: none of these are written specifically for queer/trans people, so they may have language or ways of thinking in it that doesn’t feel great at times. ❤

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The O.G. Can be hard to engage with at times because it is definitely a spiritual-based practice, but if you can look beyond that, there are a lot of good takeaways here.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Another text that stresses creativity as a spiritual practice, but feels way less God heavy if that’s something that turns you off.

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
To me, this book is an example of a daily writing practice that centers on gratitude, play, and abundance. It is such a treat and opened me up to new ways of thinking about my practice.

Soft Manifesto by Cortney Cassidy
“It’s not easy to find extra time and energy to exist when the part of you that learned how to assimilate by being productive is stronger than your “real” self.”

Old writings from myself, from friends, and from family have also been incredibly helpful for perspective and growth.

I am excited to continue on this journey, learning and growing with my community. I can’t wait to see what we all create.

If you are a queer or trans person interested in expanding your creative practice, check out Songs of Ourselves workshops.

Sage is a queer and trans writer living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the creator of Songs of Ourselves, a virtual writing community for LGBTQIA+ people.

Sage is a queer and trans writer living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the creator of Songs of Ourselves, a virtual writing community for LGBTQIA+ people.