Friday, February 15, 2013

The Creative Process: Blocks

If you've ever been sick or injured and couldn't work, in pain and couldn't work, sad because of the loss of a love and couldn't work, then you've been blocked. Had a cold? Work space too messy? Just plain tired? Yeah, blocks all.

As Eric Maisel, PhD writes in his book, A Life in the Arts, (NY, NY: Putnam, 1994). "All human beings are regularly blocked. It is one definition of being human that we regularly fail to actualize our potentialities."

It's useful to recognize a block as soon as possible and implement a strategy custom tailored to both you and the block so you can get back to work soon. Keeping the work rolling along is what it's all about. We all want full, actualized lives.

After a car accident, it took a year and a half for me to be able to physically get back to the painting I was doing before the accident. Luckily I recognized it for what it was, didn't feel guilty that I couldn't meet a demanding schedule, gave myself time (lost a cherished teaching job at the local college) and grieved my losses. At the right time I began working again. Blocks are not to be minimized or dismissed because if you do either it's just going to take that much longer to get back on the horse.

So let's look at some of Maisel's blocks and what to do about them. These are just a few and if you find that your work, whatever that is, is sagging you might just want to get his book and see what's troubling you. He's a therapist who specializes in creative types, and hey, aren't we all just creating a life? So here are a few blocks that can get in the way of working on genealogy. How about a half-dozen? It's a start.

1. Self-criticism
Want to start a blog but afraid that the genealogy world will pounce all over you and your poor performance? Listen to that voice in your head, Maisel says, and ask where it's coming from. Then write down what its saying and who is saying it. When it comes up next, answer back: OK, I hear you but hush now, I'm busy here writing my blog, and we can talk later.

2. World-criticism
You think the world at large and specifically the world of genealogy is too..... (whatever, fill in the blank.) Too fussy about those source citations, too hungry after your information? Yeah, the world can be an ugly place. Mr. Rogers' mother told him that when bad things happen, "Helpers" are also there and that he should look for the Helpers. If the world looks ugly, look for the Helper people. They are there and they'll help you through. All in all, the genealogy world, full of self-taught folks, is very eager to help you. Just ask. And when we're not asking for help we too can be a Helper.

3. Conflicts between life and art (or whatever you want to do)
This might be a big issue for those working 9 to 5. Or any of us who also have a life, and that's everyone. I marvel at how much others get done and often feel I come up short. Then I have to tell myself that they are not me, they are not doing my life. Some days the genealogy just doesn't get done. Some days the food, and I love to cook, is just not going to make it to the table, all done from scratch, so it's crock pot time Give in to that other life, Maisel says, but carve out time for your needs as well.

4. Environmental blocks
I tell myself, if only I had a nice new and powerful laptop I could get way more done because I'd carry it everywhere. Maybe. But that thought shouldn't get in the way of me doing work in the here and now. Work space too messy? Files too disorganized? All of that can be identified and fixed. If your environment is just too something, take stock and fix that. You'll feel better.

5. Skills deficiency
This can be a biggie because, well, aren't we all always learning? And aren't the skills always in a state of flux because the information out there is always changing, as well as the technology? The Cook County records aren't there anymore so how we gonna find when he died? And is Family Search going to change this week? It can make a person feel as though they hardly know anything at all. I bet more people feel this than talk about it. It can't stop us!

6. Myths and idealization
 Mayflower Society? DAR? Colonial Dames? A tree with 100,000 people on it? Every source properly cited? FAN principle used? When I sense the work yet to be done on the family tree, it feels enormous, if I intend to do it "right", and I do. ("Right"...? See number 5, above.)

I'm just an always-learning, entry level, intermediate part-time genealogist with a passion for cooking, a loving family that "lets me be" now and then, and a dog that's 16 going on 3. Life is full and I need to count my blessings, then move beyond my limiting blocks. You too?

Nutshell analysis and the obvious take-aways:
* Blocks are part of the territory when you are about the business of making something out of nothing.
* Identify what the blocking is about.
* Next, figure out a fix.
* Ask for help. Ask the Helpers. Thankfully, they are all around us.

Photos of the day from the Archive:

These two pictures remain unidentified. The top one is probably from Mom's Whetstone or Williams side. The bottom one might be some Zeller children. We'd love to know.

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