Creative work, overcontrol, fear

April has been such a rollercoaster with my emotions and my creative work. I haven’t (yet) fulfilled my goal to finish 2 large paintings. I started out strong with my calendar laid out and followed the schedule perfectly. But over and over when it came time to paint, I felt totally paralyzed and ended up in such despair at not being able to find any creative energy that I decided to take the pressure off and not schedule studio time. Once I did, I felt free and connected to myself again, and even some glimmers of creative desire, but as soon as I start planning to paint again, the resistance comes up so strong. It feels like horrible pressure sucking the life out of me.

I have been pretty blocked creatively for a year now and joined SCS to help with this. Before that I had about 3 years of very intense productivity, fueled by deadlines for shows and fear of failing. There was not much joy in making any of that work, even though the shows were a big success. I need to get back to work because I have shows coming up, but I can see it’s not just a matter of forcing myself to work. Without some creative desire or joy, this is not sustainable. I know I have to change something about my thinking.

Throughout the month all my models were basically the same thing:
C Studio time
T I don’t want to paint
F dread
A timid attempts at painting
R unfinished paintings

I finally got underneath the “I don’t want to paint” thought and found a bunch of other self-doubting, perfectionist thoughts that were making me feel like I don’t want to paint. So I’ve begun to work on those, but I’m having a hard time finding any consistent feeling of wanting to paint.

Examples of replacement thoughts: I have the ability to play without fear. I enjoy the process of exploration. I enjoy the struggle because it’s part of the process.

But, I’ve never felt this way about painting except for the first few months when I first started. At that point, it was like I found God and all I wanted to do was paint. But, as soon as I decided painting was going to be what I do, it became burdened with pressure and performance anxiety. I seriously question why I continue to do it. Probably because I’ve invested 16 years of devoted struggle into it and I finally am having career success. I know I have a unique talent and I feel like I have to serve my talent, but I’ve turned it into such a torment.

My question is: should I still force myself to paint? The feelings of self-loathing and rage that are coming up when I try to paint are really intense and infecting the rest of my life. Like really ruining my days. The other piece of this is that I suspect I need to get out and try to have some fun and get some new stimulation, but that’s always been very difficult for me. I have so much body-image shame and shame in general, I have pretty much lived and communicated through my art. Now that my art has dried up on me, I’m facing the need to change some faulty self-sabotaging thinking that I have been managing through force of will. I’m exhausted by the struggle and need help with my mind. Sorry this is so long. Any clarifying guidance is appreciated.