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In my basement, we have an old dresser. If you were to open any one of the six drawers of this dresser you would have to tug a little because each drawer is filled to the brim and overflowing with Lego. But that’s not the only place you’ll find Lego in my house. Bins of Lego can be found tucked behind chairs and stacked neatly (and not-so-neatly) on bookshelves in every room. And of course, if you look in the heaters and other small crevices of my home, you will find errant pieces and casualties of epic battles that occurred at one point or another. Why so much Lego? Because I am the mother of a ten year old son who is an absolute fanatic. He plays with them all the time.
Lately he has been digging about in other bins in search of other toys to entertain him. One day, as he busily worked at creating a Smurf village complete with construction paper gardens and domino fences, he glanced up from his play and said, “In case you’re wondering why I’m not playing Lego like I usually do, it’s because I have Lego block. I can’t really think of what I want to build right now so I’m hoping that by playing other things, it will give me a new idea of something to build.”
Lego block. Pardon the pun, but my son has Lego block. Like writing, the act of building a rocket ship or army tank or fighter jet is a creative process which encounters an occasional bout of gridlock. And like writers who cook or clean or read or recite a poem or take a walk to help clear away the congestion interfering with the creative process, my son recognized that he, too, needed to do something to release him from the claw of “Lego block.” He knew that playing with other toys and trying out different games would help stimulate his creativity and help him find the inspiration he needs to create a new masterpiece. But what’s more, like a tortured artist committed to his craft, he was so guilt ridden about turning his attention away from his work that he felt the need to justify his behavior.
The gratification of creating a masterpiece can be exhilarating, but it can also be frustrating and that frustration can be paralyzing. The feeling caused by not knowing what to create next or how to move a piece forward is the source of great angst. And that angst is a feeling shared by all artists. Anybody who has ever created anything knows it. The trick is knowing what to do when it happens. Do you sit there until the beads of sweat turn to blood or do you take a break and do something productive until the mental rotary in your brain releases you onto an open highway of creativity? If you have writer’s block or painter’s block or Lego block, take a break and remember, short departures from our work require no justification.