Art Literature Music

Jeremy O. Harris, Elliot Page, Mia Goth, and More on How to Escape a Creative Block

Listening to a great song or reading a life-changing novel, you might think the creative process comes easily to your favorite savant. But creative blocks hit all of us, from the most decorated authors to Sunday painters. Productivity ruts can feel hopeless, but the fact that they are so common means that the pros have come up with some good strategies for getting out of them.

Portrait of felicita by Vasso Vu. Images courtesy of felicita.


“There was a time when London was this psychedelic playground of pop music and experimentalism, and a lot of that was fueling what I was going in and doing every day [after returning to London in 2021]. I was also microdosing fairly regularly then. Someone asked me recently how useful that is, and I would say the only thing it's good for is calming you down to the point that you can try something.”

Image courtesy of Jeremy O. Harris.

Jeremy O. Harris

“I’ve been trying to process the fact that my job has become less interesting to me. Before, I wrote plays secretly. Now, I’m like a famous writer, so I can’t just do other things, because I pay my bills by writing plays. The minute playwriting became a job, it became boring. I think it’s partly because I never had a practice where I wake up every morning and write. I’ve just started doing that, and now I like writing in a new way.”

Photography of Shygirl by Rachel Fleminger Hudson.


“I start every song by finding that phrase that makes me say, Where the fuck am I taking this? That’s what I’ve been trying to do in the studio recently by taking away the direction and not knowing for sure if I’m making a dance record. That leaves me vulnerable, because I’ve built a fan base through alternative electronic music. It’s harder, at this stage, to give an audience a different sound and expect them to stay with you … I might lose them, and I need to be okay with that. In the end, I’m the only one who needs to stay on board.”

Photography of FINNEAS by David Bates.


“I work really well with deadlines. I’ve been working on this one project for so long and it’s because there’s no deadline. If a deadline materializes for this project, I’ll get it done before that, but right now I’m working at this snail’s pace. When you are creative, especially in the early stages, you have no deadlines: it’s on you to finish pieces, and it’s on you to put them together. A lot of people find that hard enough, to just be their own taskmaster.”

Photography of Elliot Page by Catherine Opie. Image courtesy of Page.

Elliot Page

“Every time I read a book I think, How the fuck does somebody do this? I really felt [writing my memoir, Pageboy] in my body as I wrote. It was fascinating, like, I’d hunch over, I’d start to sweat. I would try to strike a balance for myself: Okay, this week I wrote about a rather traumatic incident, so next week I’ll write about getting to wear a Speedo as a kid … I think often of my own life in relation to grains of sand, the stars, and the sky. I have some days where that thought is quite scary and sad, and other days where that thought is really exciting and liberating. It makes me feel less precious about myself, the things that have happened to me, or the anxiety and stress that I’m dealing with. Like the book coming out, for example. I say to myself, Elliot, you’re a tiny speck. There are a lot of books in the world.

Photography of Mia Goth by Rachel Fleminger Hudson.

Mia Goth

“Acting is the only thing that I do, the only thing that I know. It’s a marathon for me. I’m not in a sprint or race of any sort. I’m not rushing to get to the next set after I wrap one up. It’s important to be able to go back into your personal life, fill up your well with as many varied experiences as possible, and then return to set, which is a sacred place to release and reveal. You know, it’s a miracle to me each time I’m cast in something that I wanted to be in—and every time I wrap a movie, I’m certain I’m never going to work again. I also prepare for my movies in a similar way, so that each one feels like it might be my last. That energy makes me work harder and be more present when I’m on set with other actors. As stressful as it can be to feel it, I hope to never lose that idea that I might not work again.”

Photography of Joel Mesler Jenny Gorman. 

Joel Mesler

"One of the first things I do when I enter my art studio for the day is pick up a rock and light some incense. Smell has always been able to move my energy and get my feet where they belong, right on the ground. As I have grown older, I have noticed that the more present I can be, the more useful I am to myself and others. I want to be useful."

Photography of Eileen Myles by Caroline Tompkins.

Eileen Myles

“I love being on trains and planes because it creates this feeling of freedom. I like being trapped and then finding the freedom inside of something. I don't ever sit in a laundromat anymore, but I remember when I first came to New York, I loved writing in my notebook and reading while I was sitting at the laundromat. I was always worrying the rest of the time about what I was doing and where I was going. I wasn’t worrying when I was at the laundromat.”

Photography of Sandra Bernhard by Brett Erickson.

Sandra Bernhard

“As an artist, you have stay open to change and to shedding your skin. It should be a natural evolution, not something forced nor labored over. Remaining inspired and open is the gift that comes with being curious and engaged with life; there is no other recipe to being someone who continues to give to their work and the world.”

Photography of Gaetano Pesce by Olga Antipina.

Gaetano Pesce

“I regularly try not to let my brain atrophy by following repetitions. There is a Catholic proverb: ‘To make errors is human, but to repeat is diabolical.’ I believe that to repeat is only stupid (like Putin who repeats war), and the Devil is intelligent in his way—in the end, we can make a dialogue with him or her. Many times, error introduces new values and points of view, so I’m not afraid of acknowledging that I’m wrong. Mistakes often refresh our minds.”