Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.— Pablo Picasso

Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page, wondering whether you should stab it with a kitchen knife, or decorate it with your tears and snot? You were probably suffering from a creative block.

Some suggest that, in order to unblock, one should feast their eyes on a range of masterpieces (washed down with a stiff beverage or four, of course). A diet of excellence should satiate the creative soul, right?

Not in my experience.

While I love to stare — mouth agape— at good art and writing, it tends to worsen a creative block (“What have I done with my life? I’m a failure! I’m not good enough!“And so on.)

The only helpful remedy I’ve found is:

All You Can Eat Crap Art

These are the steps:

Visit an art gallery. Locate the room filled with stacked television sets blasting loud static (every gallery has one), and watch the art snobs speak over the televisions’ Chhhhhhhhhhhh as they stroke at their chin hairs while exchanging words like juxtaposition, paradoxical, existentialism, and chiaroscuro (generally expelled in one single breath). Tell yourself: “That sucks! I can do better than this!

Read a successful blog, something that makes you cringe, like: My Year Of Acting On A Whim dot com. Work your way through the archive of unedited text, which may feel similar to performing breaststroke in thick mud. Note the gr8 spelling, the absent grammar, and all the other alarming interpretations of the English language. Perhaps the blog has landed a major book deal? If so, tell yourself: “That sucks! I can do better than this!


Buy an overhyped bestseller, preferably by an author who releases a book or two per year. Follow the pursuits of Shallow Susie as she falls for the dashingly handsome Contrived Clint, who turns out to be the villain (dilemma!). Pretend to care about them while you endure 293 pages of predictable storytelling. No napping! Drink up every last drop of medicine. Then tell yourself: “That sucks! I can do better than this!

Now that you’re stuffed with crap art, you probably feel like purging, getting violent, or writing abusive letters to publishers about their contribution to the oncoming era of Idiocracy. If it makes you feel better, go for it. Grind your teeth. Take up smoking. Throw things. Cry. Get drunk. Criticize everyone in your immediate vicinity. Text an ex. Play football with a toy poodle. Allow your frustrations to reach boiling point. Get it all out.


Okay, now let’s get real about something: maybe you can do better, but your work is not in a gallery, you blog is not wildly popular and you don’t make a gazillion dollars per second off your formulaic novels. Those artists are successful people … and you’re not. While the world eats up crap artwork in heaped spoonfuls, nobody knows who you are. Nobody cares.

But before you start kicking poodles again, remember that there’s only one reason they’re successful and you’re not: they had the guts to start a major project. They pushed past their creative blocks and their personal obstacles. They risked public humiliation by releasing their work into the world. They followed through with something that most people will only dream about — they made art. And the world, hungry for entertainment, welcomed their creations; good, bad, or wanky.

So let’s bring it back to the basics:

That’s it. Sure, it takes a while and it’s hard work. But everything else you’ve got going on — the doubt, the excuses, the creative monsters, the self-pity — is as significant as white noise blasting from a stacked pile of televisions. Treat it as static interference:

“I’m not good enough!” Chhhhhhhhhhhh

“I’m going to fail!” Chhhhhhhhhhhh

“My cat is sitting on my keyboard.” Chhhhhhhhhhhh

Tune out the unnecessary noise. Drink a nice hot cup of Harden The F*ck Up. Put pencil to paper, brush to paint pot, fingers to keyboard, eyeball to viewfinder, butt cheeks to canvas — whatever gets you going. Start. And do not stop until you reach …

The End.

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38 Response Comments

  • Tersia Roach  May 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I know the feeling 😉 be stubborn, persevere, keep your head down as to get that job done – push hard and hopefully… one day… you may win that well-earned ‘lottery’!

    • Torre DeRoche  May 23, 2011 at 10:35 pm

      Stubbornness is a great attribute to have as an artist.

  • Katja  May 23, 2011 at 11:14 am

    LOVE this, Torre! I’d never thought about this, but I’ve realised I do it subconsciously. I have the heart and soul of an editor, and many’s the time when I’ve mentally rewritten popular blogs or books. That then gets me all fired up and I’ve improved on my own writing by registering other people’s mistakes and recognising them in my own stuff. The bit I really need to get to grips with now, though, is actually just sitting down and bloody writing. *BIG, BAD NOTE TO SELF*

    • Torre DeRoche  May 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      Fired-up, that’s it. Bad art is FUEL.

  • Emily @ Lo Vivido  May 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    This made me laugh and nod and exclaim, “Amen, sista!” We are our own worst critics, and that is often what prevents success. I am the first one to say to myself, “What am I thinking? No one is going to read this. I’m not creative, and I have no new ideas. Best to just be safe and not put myself out there.”

    Thanks for this kick in the pants 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  May 23, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      Fear of failure. Chhhhhhhhhhh

  • Dyanne@TravelnLass  May 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Purely sublime, Torre! g-knows the “Start” part is easy. Ah but ’tis the “Finish” part that so often eludes. Who knew it was so very simple? Just do the math: Start + Finish = Art. Utterly beautiful!

    • Torre DeRoche  May 23, 2011 at 10:39 pm

      The finish is hard because of our fears and voices. Physically, it’s easy. Mentally … not so easy.

  • Debbie Beardsley  May 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Just when I need it the most someone writes a blog that keeps me going! Thank you for this very timely post. Spent most of yesterday writing 1 post and was frustrated most of the day.

    Its also nice to know I am not the only one saying “What have I done with my life? I’m a failure! I’m not good enough!“ 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  May 23, 2011 at 10:40 pm

      Oh yes, Debbie, we all have those voices! I think they’re important to tease out good art. If we’re too arrogant, we don’t try hard enough.

  • Juan  May 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Love it! I can also apply this to programming, in project management and such (I hope I don’t sound too geeky). Torre, you have just given us the Melox cure for our mental farts, and sorry if it sounds too eschatological, but these do happen. Cheers!

  • Juan  May 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    See? they do happen, here the proof:
    A correction for my previous comment; eschatological and scatological are two different words, I meant the second one. Cheers!

    • Torre DeRoche  May 23, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Juan. I love both words, though I think I’m more of a scatological person myself (evidenced by the number of times I’ve used crap and sh*t to date in my blog). I’m glad that my words may help your mental farts. 🙂

  • JoAnna  May 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    *Love.* This is all so, so true, and a very good reminder. We can find all the inspiration in the world that we want, but no one is going to get us past our personal hurdles except for ourselves. We are ultimately in charge of how successful our art. is. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  May 23, 2011 at 11:04 pm

      And a big part of that success is the *doing* part that we so often dismiss as unimportant 😉

  • Dust  May 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Does the fact that crappy art is successful and you could do better necessarily mean that what your better art is going to be more successful? I don’t think this is always the case, since money, being now completely anti-environment and anti-self-expression, rewards the crap because it is cheap entertainment. It’s mcdonalds and britney spears, not fine cuisine and music that makes you think, that are “successful” in our inverted world. I don’t think this means that any financially successful act is shitty, but that artists who are true artists that make good money are either consciously imitating the successful crap while twisting it to be meaningful, or they’ve spent enough time in a particular scene that despite the fact that they adopted some of that scene’s successful, crappy aesthetics, their artistic genius still seeps through.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      We may be surrounded by crap art, but nobody gets tingles when they listen to Britney Spears. Nobody eats McDonalds and thinks, “Wow, this is really high quality stuff!” Anyone with half a brain knows that it’s not mind-blowing stuff.

      True art may not collect the big bucks, but it leaves an impression in the few who are smart enough to appreciate it.

  • Pamella D.  May 24, 2011 at 2:27 am

    So true!

    Inspiration is everywhere, try, try try and don’t stop till the end. Thanks for the reminder! This is going to my note to self. 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  May 25, 2011 at 9:13 am

      Thanks for your comment, Pamella and good luck with your pursuit towards The End!

  • Katie  May 24, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Fantastic! This is the no-nonsense, get-over-yourself talk that every writer need to hear from time to time.

    Incidentally, I’ve found that a splendid solution to the cat on the keyboard dilemma involves sitting at a table while writing. Not only is it good for one’s posture, it’s much easier to shove the cat off onto an unoccupied area of the table.

    I’m bookmarking this page for future reference.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 25, 2011 at 9:15 am

      I have an even better solution to the cat-on-keyboard dilemma: get a dog! My dog can hardly lift her oversized butt onto the couch, let alone onto my keyboard 🙂 I’m delighted to make your bookmarks, thanks!

    • Ladan  May 24, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      HOT SPICE CIDER RECIPEIngredients1/4 cup packed brown sugar1/2 teoaospn whole allspice1 teoaospn whole cloves1 cinnamon stick1/4 teoaospn salt1 pinch ground nutmeg1 large orange, quartered with peel2 quarts apple cider DirectionsPlace filter in coffee basket, and fill with brown sugar, allspice, cloves, cinnamon stick, salt, nutmeg, and orange wedges. Pour apple cider into coffee pot where the water usually goes. Brew, and serve hot.

  • Raymond  May 24, 2011 at 4:40 am

    In times of doubt and self-pity, I find it comforting to turn to Stuart Smalley. 🙂

    Torre, you make me laugh and you make me think. Your blog just keeps getting better and better! One day, you will rule the world.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 25, 2011 at 9:16 am

      “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.”

      Thanks, Raymond, you’re too kind 🙂

  • Janet  May 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

    lol, I loved this. Funny article and I especially loved the first one about the snobby high art.. and how you tied it in the end with static TVs again, ftw! It’s true, a lot of people who are successful at something, do suck and I always think I can do better.. but simply don’t. This is the reason why tenacity > talent. I read a lot more sucky ebooks more than good ones, too, for example. So all the reason to write my own sometime!

    • Torre DeRoche  May 26, 2011 at 4:25 am

      Humans have a responsibility to NOT make e-books sucky, but like global warming, it seems to be a lost cause.

  • Matt R  May 25, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Love the post. This works so well for any creative block period. Looking at the suckage that people put out there just by risking that people like us would say it sucks as hell is why they’re successful.

    “They risked public humiliation by releasing their work into the world. ”
    Couldn’t have said it any better.

    I also use more “negative” type motivation rather than “positive” type motivation. Like, I’ll think of some ordinary people who have more than me because they were willing to put themselves out there more and it’s like PSH, I GOT BETTER TO OFFER.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 26, 2011 at 4:32 am

      Maybe it’s bad for the soul, but it works for me. After seeing terrible art, I feel personally responsible for fighting the world’s CRAP with my shining sword of excellence. BAH! The arrogance! But I do believe that artists are made up of 50% self-doubt and 50% arrogance.

      • Matt R  May 26, 2011 at 7:03 am

        Haha! 50% negativity due to asking oneself, “What the hell am I doing?” and 50% ego due to asking oneself, “Why isn’t my stuff going big yet?” 🙂

        Trust me, I do the same thing except I use CRAP personal experiences. It’s playing with fire but hey sometimes a metaphorical fire creates good stuff.

  • Morgan Dragonwillow  May 26, 2011 at 4:23 am

    That was fantastic! Thank you for your humorous take on writer’s block. My favorite way to clear the fear and critic is to put on fun or tribal music and dance with intention for several songs then write. It works every time.


    • Torre DeRoche  May 26, 2011 at 4:27 am

      I can see how that technique would free up the inner creative snob.

      • Morgan Dragonwillow  May 26, 2011 at 7:00 am

        Actually moving your body is one of the best ways to open to inspiration and your Muse. When we are feeling stuck movement is the best remedy.

        An open mind leads to an open heart.

        Your article was wonderful. Have a phenomenal day.


  • Lauren Fritsky  May 26, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    This post reminds of the time in college when I complained to an English prof about getting Cs on my essays when a girl who couldn’t form a sentence was getting As. He told me point blank she got As because she had reached her potential — my good was better than hers, but not the best that “I” could do, and I needed to be pushed.

    The same applies for books, paintings, blogs, etc. Seeing other people’s accomplishments and saying you could do better only matters if you actually get off your arse and DO better.

    • Torre DeRoche  May 26, 2011 at 11:15 pm

      Funny how we often set our personal accomplishment bars at the level that is average, or just above average. Your English professor, though peculiar with his methods, knew that you were setting your bar too low for yourself.

  • Karen  May 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    This is fantastic. Cheeks to canvas – GOLD sister! I’m going to print this out and stick it on the wall above my desk. xx

  • Lorna - the roamantics  June 27, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    TORRE!!!! I’ve been way behind in my reading and am just getting to this now! BRILLIANT! Sitting in the chinook parked on a residential street in Seattle laughing my ass off! Can you imagine strolling down the sidewalk passed that?! “Drink a nice hot cup of Harden the F*ck Up” bahahaha! I may post that on my all of 1×1 bit of wall space. Sending this to all my creative pals pronto. And, um, crap, I need an editor! Scratch that- I need grammar lessons! Love this 🙂

  • Sasha  August 11, 2011 at 12:31 am

    I never thought about it in this way but come to think of if every time I’ve looked at bad art I’ve had the sudden urge to write! On the other hand when I look at good art nothing comes to me, not even if I’m trying to write a review, I think you spot on about that whole feeling inadequate thing!

    I find taking a nice long walk is always helpful, just the fact that I’m free, out in the open and not bound to my laptop seems to really unlock the words, good thing I always carry a notebook!


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