Beyond Brushstrokes

The imagination is a creative fountain, a source of inspiration and ideas. Occasionally, it is overworked and it runs dry. Artists, writers, composers, architects, designers, professors and scientists experience the disconcerting, disturbing phenomenon called a “mental block.”

The dry spell occurs after a burst of energy _ a theatrical performance, a major thesis, an art exhibition, a book launch, a musical production, the completion of a research project, the discovery of a new serum or an invention of a gadget.

The drought happens after a trauma — from an accident, a debilitating illness, or depression after the death of a loved one. The drive to create and produce is physically exhausting and emotionally draining. Depleted energy cannot be replenished quickly — despite attempts to snap into action.

Burnout appears in the form of listlessness, inertia or the blues. Sometimes, after exhilaration come feelings of frustration or exasperation. After grief, there is a slow period of recuperation and healing.

An Oscar award-winning movie about Shakespeare showed the young English bard undergoing “writer’s block.” He was not able to compose or write until he met an inspiring muse. The romantic movie blended fact and fiction — legend, fantasy, and history. Imagination was used to weave a colorful tapestry that depicted life, love, literature, and theater during the Elizabethan era. Humor and wit gave the film sparkle and incandescence to transcend the elitist aura of the hero. It was created for a broad audience – for a world that does not necessarily appreciate Shakespearean literature.

The director portrayed the literary genius of sonnets and dramatic plays as a young man brimming with passion, at the early part of his career. All these elements explain why he was driven to excel, and the creative force that propelled him to create masterpieces. Despite his immense talent, the proverbial quill of the writer ran dry. In a desperate way. Like ordinary mortals, the young Will needed a spark to ignite the intense flame.

Unlike many of us, the impetuous writer was extraordinarily gifted. His muse inspired him to write Romeo and Juliet.

At some point in life, everyone passes through a sensory desert and into a dimension of suspended animation. Time ticks by in the real world but in limbo, everything seems to be in slow motion (or fast forward). It is as though one is a zombie walking through a dark tunnel or into a vast expanse of nothingness.

Everything seems to be diffused and unfocused. Sounds are muffled or discordant. Fragrances, aromas, tastes are indistinct. Words do not flow.

Images do not take shape.

The numbers and charts seem disjointed. Formulaic computations and rhythms seem out of sync. The zing and zest are missing. Like the elusive pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It happens suddenly like a mild flu or an allergy that wears you down and forces you to rest against your will. In defiance of your busy schedule and commitments.

A favorite professor once said that one should not panic during a mental block. The mind is never really asleep. It is just undergoing a much needed period of “passivity.” The mind is at rest but it is open to the world around. It is aware and continues to absorb ideas and sensations. He called it a period of “creative idleness.” One can consider it the calm before the storm, the simmering before the explosion. The pen and brush are still.

Months later, the block will dissolve. The dreams shall begin to bloom in full color. Passion will soon burst and flow into the cascading splendor of luminous creativity.

In this prolonged season of eerie silence, we have a forced retreat away from the normal busyness of daily life.

Everything is frozen in the city. One cannot hear the sounds of playful children in the park. Occasionally, one hears a distant toot. The absence of noise and toxic fumes is soothing. One sees the cloudless blue sky. The tired trees are shedding leaves. New buds are appearing on the twigs and bushes. The river and the sea are no longer gray. The water is becoming clear and the fishes are swimming freely. Mother Earth is starting to heal.

People are becoming introspective. Families are bonding and praying.

One day, divine grace will flow and a miracle will happen. This crisis will pass.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.