January 31, 2019

How to battle artist block, anxiety and the constant fear of not being able to create anymore?

Shifa Begum, 29

My entry is an image of a ceramic plate part of a collection exploring and challenging the difficulties I have faced mentally in my creative journey. Having struggled with longterm artist block brought on by many personal struggles, battling anxiety and depression, I felt like I lost a part of myself. I used to love drawing, I used to love mixed media, I used to love getting my hands mixed in oil pastels and glue for collaging, I used to love just making things.

Then one day I noticed my drawings were getting smaller physically, mentally and intellectually. I just felt numb. This terrible thing I have been struggling with left me with mental scars to the point where I couldn’t pick up a pencil, how was I to create a project to pass university when I just felt like disappearing? I didn’t want to be in the studio, I didn’t want to speak to my tutors, I just wanted to be left alone and to kind of grieve because I felt like the problems in my life took everything good away from me and I just felt utterly lost without a purpose or a plan. With the encouragement of a compassionate friend I forced myself to stay in university, I decided if I can’t draw anymore maybe I can construct something, it didn’t necessarily have to be anything useful or perfect, it just needed to be invented to just exist as a remembrance, signifying struggles and a glimmer of hope.

I took myself to a pottery studio run by a lovely couple who showed me basic skills to work with clay, to mark-make, to play with colour and to go back in and work into the clay before and after firing. It felt amazing, I felt like I had a purpose again I felt like my old self again before the thing happened in my life. I felt happy and for a moment had control over something going in the right direction. I guess this project was a fight against myself, I was fighting to keep something and to not let go just yet because of all the sad things happening around me. The making process of this creative journey injected a little creative joy back into my life. I was sad and angry and in a lot of ways I still am, it’s funny how I can’t separate my personal life from my creative life; one impacts the other depending on my mood and how my life is going!

Ultimately, I was angry at myself for not being able to draw or make anything, I didn’t recognise myself anymore so I took myself out of the box I felt trapped in and into something radically different, where I couldn’t panic and get anxious since I didn’t know anything to begin with. I ended up creating a beautiful collection of plates, I received a lot of uplifting feedback even though it was my first time experimenting with clay. When I look at the collection I still feel distraught because I still remember the mental trauma I was in, just thinking about it makes me ache, the issues in my life will never go away and I am still working hard to escape it but the past is the past and I’m happy at this moment in time to have come through that journey and feeling positive about moving forward. I suppose what I am saying is although my life is crazy and being a mental wreck, I can still create and make cool shit, experiencing constant anxious doubts is probably a universal plight but I can still provoke some challenging thoughts through my work when I want to instead of letting the doubts control me! Working with clay basically taught me life is tough but its also malleable, I can make my life work for me, if I don’t and to suffer I can work at it and get myself out, time always moves forward so I won’t be sad forever.

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Untitled 1
Ceramic plate

Instagram: _Shifa89