Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Pain of Designer's Block

For those of you who don't know, I have pseudo-tumor, also called intracranial hypertension. It's a nasty neurological condition that has no real cure, and it means I work with an almost constant lurking headache when I'm not working with a full-blown migraine in my eyes. The treatments are nasty -- I won't talk about that here.

I got diagnosed last summer, and it's really dampened not just my spirit but my creativity. Many times I've sat down at my work bench and stared blankly at beads and not had the slightest idea what the heck to do. "SPEAK TO ME!" I shout silently. Normally, the beads tell me what to do, but more and more, they can't be heard for the pain in my head.

I've been preparing for a huge show that takes place over three days the end of March, and I have to bring a LOT of inventory. Last year, I nearly got wiped out of everything, so this year I know I need twice as much. I want so badly to bring new, innovative things with me -- but my head hurts.

Don't get me wrong -- the jewelry I'm making is pretty and it'll sell. I'm just not FEELING it. The point of this year off was to explore, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to really start doing that until after this big show. But I didn't count on feeling so tired and in pain.

So what to do?

What to do.
Well, let's see. I can focus on the craft show. I love the crowds and the energy, and my customers just rock out loud. I'll be exhausted the week after the show but that's a welcome exhaustion -- I earned it. I'll get to see vendor friends I haven't see for months. I can think about that.

I can buy new beads. As if I really needed them -- but really, maybe a new medium (ceramic? clay?) will have a louder voice and can shout down the headache. Let me try a little retail therapy.

I can allow naps. Naps can help. I've been working HARD and it's ok to nap when I need it.

I can enjoy the loveliness around me -- a quiet moment with a good book, knitting, restful moments of yoga or stretching.

I can breathe, and remember why I'm in this business -- for the beauty and joy of it. If I lose that, there's no point in it. I haven't lost that. I refuse to let a headache take that from me.

So I've got a plan. I'm the sort of person who NEEDS a plan. Just writing this made me feel better. (Deep cleansing breath inserted here).

Curious -- what do you do when the weight of the world is on your shoulders?

(Lori Anderson designs jewelry at Her other blog is


  1. My prayers and thoughts are with you. When I see no end to the tunnel of work and keeping up jewelry and creativity, I go and look and watch my children .... that puts a smile on my face and brings things into perspective.

    Sissy & Jack's

  2. I'm so sorry you are going through this. When I am working out a problem (lack of creativity, etc), I take a day and throw myself into something completely. Then my brain's "backburner" works through the issue, but I don't have to concentrate on it.

    Good luck! Your work is beautiful!

  3. I understand where you're coming from...I hope that you are able to pull through and make lots of wonderful jewelry! I'm currently in the process of just trying to figure out what's causing all of my issues (and all of the days where I come home from work and can only just lie there...)...Anyway, like Stacy mentioned, find something that makes you happy and use that to pull you back into your work :o)

  4. Unfortunately, I eat, become really angry, need to find several people to listen to my stress, my issue that has no answer and then I make a plan and follow it doggedly. Wow, I sort of sound psycho, don't I?
    Since you are one of my favorite people in the world,Ihope you feel better soon and the creative juices sart to flow with no pain attached. Take care of yourself.

  5. I don't have the daily migraines, but I do have daily headaches with a smattering of 4 day migraines thrown in for fun, so I understand where you're coming from. I wish I had some great pearls of wisdom to kick start your creativity, but I'm stuck too. Maybe the trick is to just start with some basics that you've made in the past, then as you get working you might come up with some variations, or better yet, spring off into a totally new design. Good luck, and hopefully the muse will return to you.

  6. No one can say they know what you are going through; but as one who suffers from migrains and other chronic pain, I have a little insight into what you must be experiencing. My heart goes out to you.
    It sounds like you have a plan. That is commendable and a place to start. What I have discovered is that not just creative work is the key, but finding challenging new dimensions of my craft is more important. Focusing on learning something new is very effective in, at least temporarily, diverting my attention from being consumed by pain.
    I know you will find a way to cope with this. I wish you the very best.

  7. A yoga teacher used to tell us to "Welcome the pain, Be with the pain". I remember looking at her, question marks all over my face. What? When in pain, don't you just want to think of something else, something to make you feel good?

    But her words resonated in me and still, whenever in pain, I take slow deep breathes and try to "be" with the pain for a few moments. I hear it, feel it and sometimes even see its colors.

    No, it doesn't make it go away. But not resisting it brings a sense of peace. I can then more easily let it go and release it. It also makes me savour those moments when "pain free" is here:)

    Wishing you lots of peaceful, feel good days:) Take care of yourself,


  8. What do I do when the weight of the world is on my shoulders? Well, I cry a lot. I feel sorry for myself, a lot. I secretly hate others who seem to have it easy in my eyes. And I eat a lot of chocolate. And then... I figure out an escape plan. I know very well what I don't like, be it bad health, low income, difficult people - I try to come up with a way to forge ahead and to kill all those bad things. I read the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron some years ago and it reprogrammed my brain for continual creativity. No matter what goes on around me my creativity is the one thing that never leaves me. It's astounding, really. I've had some real low(!) points over the past few years and even at my lowest my brain was coming up with new creative ideas like flood waters that could not be controlled. And in a way, that has saved me time and time again. I believe it is something that can be learned and once you get it, it will never leave you.

    You know, I was already in awe of your ability to organize the Bead Soup Party and keep everything running so smoothly (something I could never do!) and now that I read about your condition I am in even MORE awe! Headache or not, you kick much ass my friend!

  9. Lori, the best advice to to ask for it. Just like you did. I too feel the pain when something happens to me. I wrote a post like this not so very long ago. not about physical pain, but emotional. I think it manifests itself in the same way.

    I'm still working through it. I sit with the pain and really try to feel it. And then I channel it into something else.


  10. I can't even imagine living with a constant headache, so I'm sending hugs your way... I love that you could write/journal your way through the problem process and it helped. I think just explaining the problem to someone else, in person or in a typed up forum, helps me to really change perspective on it. I come to realize that I'm not the only one who feels bad sometimes. I usually follow that up with a nap on the couch snuggled under some favorite blankets and I feel like a happy, sleepy, young girl when I wake up. Then, I take it on again. As for trying to get the vibe from my work table, I usually start by cleaning it off. The process of putting things away helps me feel more sorted out and I even tend to find things that I didn't even know I had! I pull out those things that eventually speak to me and start from there. :) And, as long as you keep looking, something will start know that. :) Take care!!! Jen

  11. Hi Lori,
    Sending you comfort...and hope some relief comes again soon.

    Your work is lovely...what you have been doing and nearing a total sell out...speaks to that very point...we simply love what you do..and when the moments hit of new things...inspired things...then they will come.

    Terri G.

  12. When the weight of the world is upon me I just want to curl up into a little ball and become invisible. And that works for a little while. But what really works is doing what you are doing. By visualizing past the pain and enjoying the moment pain and all I can take that next step. I am stubborn and not I am not going to let a few set backs derail me. I think by engaging and getting lost in creative activity is one of the greatest therapies around. And a new bead, a new medium, a new techniques helps us get out of our ruts.
    Anyway my thoughts are with you.

  13. I am sorry for your pain. It's hard for me to even think of being creative with that kind of burden. When the weight of the world seems too much I try to focus on one tiny little thing I can do, even a corner of it. Something measurable. That tiny accomplishment can give me a sense of peace. It works for me. I hope it can help you.

  14. Lori,
    you have us when the weight of the world is on your shoulders! That's one thing I do...reach out to my friends (like you). :-)
    You are amazing the way you can set goals in the midst of all of your physical difficulties...and I bet it will help, one day at a time. Hope to see you at that show in March!

  15. Lori, music soothes my mind and gets me back into creating, as does taking a break from it all. I come back, light up the Jazz station and away I go. Good luck in getting it all completed, I know you will make it happen and it will all be beautiful!

  16. Lori - I'm so sorry you're dealing with constant pain. I've been dealing with migraines for 3-4 days per week plus some additional nerve pain. I know those conditions completely sap my creative energy.

    A couple of things that help - even basics don't have to have spectacular pieces for everything you make. The other thing that has helped is when I have the creative storm I write down as much as I can. Then I have something that doesn't require a lot of thought...just some way to realize the design in real life.

    I really hope you have some relief. I'm so sorry you're dealing with the pain at this leve. My thoughts are with you.

  17. Everything you make looks amazing to me!

    When I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, I like to go for a long walk. Naps help too!

  18. I often have to work towards very tight deadlines in my day job, and get panicky - which does not help to push creativity at all. What I am doing is to have a glass of wine - shuts down the panic and brings me back to looking at my goal - get the work done. But I am sure that is no good advice for the migraines.....
    For my beading creativity, I bring out a few components and then start fast forwarding through magazines, websites, flickr groups, beading daily jewelry pictures.... and all the sudden I have a new idea.
    I hope you will be better soon - I think I commented on an earlier post - I gave you the sunshine award, I hope that brightens up your day a bit.

  19. I'm all for naps, Lori. When you can, I hope you let yourself rest, and sleep, and when you wake up, it will be a new day (of sorts) and then you can try again. . . My best wishes that you feel better.

  20. I do what you do: give myself permission to rest. I'm so sorry about your headaches. I'll be glad when the show is over and you're back to your "year off"!

  21. Lori

    This isn't something I write ofetn but I'm gonna throw it out there. I suffer from depression. I have done for about ten years now (well, oficially anyway - I believe I've had it since I was a teenager) and the effect it has on my beadmaking is ridiculous.

    When I'm in a good mood everything works nicely and my brain overflows with ideas and I love the work I produce.

    When I am down or at a real low point I just can't work properly and I don't like what I make, if I make anything at all. People tell me the beads are nice and all that but to me the beads I create when I'm having a 'moment' are overshadowed by my mood. It's like they've been infused with it.

    I battle on through with the beads when I'm down. I have to - beadmaking is my job. But sometimes I have to give myself an imaginary slap and say 'Laura just leave it. Take a couple of days off, let your mood pass and try again another day' and nine times out of ten that works.

    So this is my advice :

    Don't force it. Go easy on yourself. Go for a walk. Look at some books and pictures. Take a couple of days off from the jewellery and don't feel guilty about it. You'll soon find that the ideas start to flow and you'll get back into it.

    The more you try and make yourself be creative the less inclined you'll be to create.

    Creativity is like a rechargeable battery. When it gets flat you need to let it recharge.

    I hope that you and your creativity feel a little better soon.

    Laura x

  22. I'm sorry you have to deal with this. Migraines suck and when you're trying to work they are worse.

    Naps are good. And so is taking a break sometimes. It rejuvenates your creativity. Or try some other activity that stimulates a different part of your brain like solitaire or a crossword puzzle. That works for me.

    Good luck! And I hope you feel better.

  23. Lori - *HUGS HUGS* I suffer from migraines, almost daily, and so I can really sympathize! It's been a long and frustrating road trying to battle them, and some times like you said I just get frustrated cuz I'm not feeling it. I want to create, but I'm not being inspired. I hope your able to keep going and find the strength to work through the pain, and the strength to give yourself a break when its needed!

  24. Lori, I'm sorry to hear that you are in pain. My heart goes out to you. I start to put pressure on myself to be more creative and that makes me less creative. When I do have my spots of creativity I try to jot it all down so that I can go back when I have those spurts of where I beat myself up w/the lack of creativity.
    I wish you well...
    Bead Happy!

  25. I'm very sorry to hear about your challenge. Do what feels natural to help yourself feel better, Lori. And all I'll say about your show preparation is what my husband always says to me - accomplished people will always tend to overprepare. Make enough inventory for your show, but know in the back of your mind that your health is the most important thing. Nap with no regrets! Feel better. :-)

  26. I just found your sites tonight,how serendipitous...

    I'm also a pain patient, w/ several conditions contributing to constant pain, fatigue & brain fog.

    When I run across a Bead or Jewelry site where the Artist works around or thru the Pain it inspires me to pick myself up to try AGAIN.

    Every single response you received in your time of need has resonated with me tonight. Thank you to YOU and to all who responded to you!

    aka DesertGator


Thanks so much for commenting!