I am usually alone when it hits. Sat in front of my computer screen, a couple of hours spread out before me, like a luxurious bedsheet on which to roll around and wrap myself up in. Time to create something, to gather up the almost-nothing shadow-world fragments swirling in my head. The bits of words or sentences or images snatched and stored up there between emails or on the walk from home to work or work to home. You know, the stuff that gently growls to a deep belly-full longing when I'm working in my actual job.
That’s exactly when it comes. Terror. I freeze. I can’t and won’t write anything. I have no ideas, and the only words I can think of are adjectives, not even good ones. I don't know how anything has ever been described without the use of the word 'nice', unless you add 'not' before it. Nouns have completely left my vocabulary. The bones in my hands won’t work to type. And I remember (of course!) that of the few creative attempts I’ve made to date, everything has been awful, trite, or an obvious and embarrassing forgery of work by other people who actually can write, make art and think of good ideas.
This is what it’s like every single time I sit down to write anything at all, and it’s a thousand times worse if the creative task I have in mind is in a visual one. In that moment, I would rather be doing anything else in the world. Why for God’s sake can’t it be a work day? I make bargains in my head. I’ll work overtime this week, starting right this second. I’ll work for $5 an hour carrying Tony Abbott’s Iron Man towel and his swimming cap and getting him a Powerade (red, don't you reckon?) I’ll do anything. Just get me out of this hell. I wait, sometimes hours, for inertia to lift.
Then, after a while, if I’m lucky, I get something down, and my brain quiets a little. I’m able to work (it's 'nice') and I find a stopping point somewhere. And getting to this point is enough without having any perspective on what I’ve done, whether it’s good or bad, if it makes sense or makes me laugh or is beautiful.
The main feeling, on stopping, is sweet relief. Sudden rainfall after a 35 degree day, a summer storm breaking. I think ‘practice’ must come from being able to defer that moment for as long as possible. Which is a pretty tall order, one that's probably lifelong.
This is what the creative process is like for me. I just wanted to get it out there, in case this rings true for you, or you’ve only made it to the terror phase.
Congratulations- it sucks, but you have begun.