About Art Block

This is also as response to Baylee Jae’s ART BLOCK DOESN’T EXIST -video.

The problematic thing about the statement “art block doesn’t exist” is that we have such a vague understanding of what art block actually is. I’m not saying I’m the definite authority when it comes to art block, nor that my definition necessarily is the best there is. I am open for feedback and suggestions in that sense. However, I hope to provide as much reason as I possibly can so that you will agree with me. If you don’t need convincing and feel I’m stating the obvious, I’m sorry if I sound patronising. This “rant” of mine perhaps isn’t aimed at you (but I appreciate your time reading it though).

Most of us are probably familiar with writer’s block, and I think it’s reasonable to assume that’s where the “block” was borrowed from. A quick google check tells me that many dictionaries define writer’s block as “the inability to produce writing/written work” with few additions on how it’s perhaps temporary, long-lasting and/or a mental condition. This would make art (or artist’s block, or any creative block) similarly “the inability to produce art/creative work”. The definitions mention “mental reasons”, but I’ve yet to discover where they define those reasons as exclusively trivial, this to me suggests they can be anything between “I just don’t feel like it” and an actual illness. When we realise that even the most trivial reason is actually affected by the person’s current condition and their surroundings, the mental becomes a result of an array of physical reasons. Nothing is really “just in your head”, it’s in your head for a reason. Now, some of these conditions aren’t reason enough to use as an excuse, if you will, to not make art. They’re the sort where you can be snapped out of your art block with a little coaxing and encouragement. But it would be foolish to assume that just because these reasons may seem trivial, that they necessarily are. Many people struggle with an art block they cannot break free from. It may be one where coaxing them with “tough love” is the exact thing that makes that block worse. This makes unsolicited, uninformed art block advice quite a thoughtless (and ethically questionable) thing to give.

Then there’s the art industry. Many believe the art industry requires you to toughen up and work very very hard to succeed. I’m not wholly disagreeing. I just feel like this is a very cold and over-simplified view of things. For one, yes, you need to work hard. But working hard doesn’t guarantee success. A lot of people work hard and suffer for what they want, but never get it. That doesn’t make them less motivated or less professional if they once in a while express, even whine about how hard it is. Whining about something doesn’t necessarily mean the person isn’t also trying their utmost best. Surely we can muster some compassion for humanity, even if it’s the art industry, even if it’s their profession they are struggling with…?

It also seems to me that people who make it up there and succeed, attribute it to their hard work. They may express how they feel lucky and grateful, but they perhaps don’t fully understand just how lucky they are. They’ve been lucky to have had the resources (mental, physical strength, encouragement, help etc. – though not necessarily all or simultaneously, but nevertheless enough to overcome even very arduous obstacles) to work hard, perhaps they’ve had just the right timing, they’ve had connections, they’ve had the smarts. Not all people are born with all of that, have those resources around them or that kind of luck. We are not starting from the same starting line. We ought to stop comparing ourselves to other people so unreservedly. There should always be that consideration for differing circumstances, and an understanding that we simply cannot fully know what it’s like for another person.

So what does this mean? Where does it leave us? I feel that it’s pointless to assume other people just aren’t doing enough or aren’t passionate enough, and get annoyed if they sometimes whine because they feel it’s hard. I know it’s frustrating, because you may feel like they are just lazy and don’t realise they should be working harder. But generalised statements like “art block doesn’t exist” or “you can’t use it as an excuse” can hit a nerve for those, who have an obstacle and who are already doing their best with what they have to overcome it. What to do instead? If you don’t want to be seen as a complete jerk, stop being so assumptious and judgmental. If you want to help, try to figure out what you can do to help. Ask. Make sure your advice is solicited and directed at the right person, at the right problem. There are things we cannot influence and things we can, find out the latter and tackle those. Success is about luck and probability, we can increase the chances by improving the odds.

Yes, you can give tough love to those who need it and find it motivational. I think it’s great you’re trying to help. Just make sure you’re not squashing someone else while you’re doing it.


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