A Feather On The Beach

An Artist's Journal


What do you do when you can’t do what you do?

Thumb splint

In case you didn’t know, or you are new here, I am an artist and when I do drawings for clients some of them have deadlines so that means drawing, sometimes but not often, when I’m not particularly inspired in order to get it done on time.  I am always inspired by something, though, and I’m either doing little sketches, full drawings, or at least writing about it in my journal most everyday.  And I love to write hand-written letters to friends as well, so I’m never without pen and paper close by.

So a couple of months ago I began having pain in my right wrist and into my thumb off and on mainly when I would lift something heavy with that hand but also at night after drawing all day.  As time went on I would occasionally wake up with my thumb joint locked.  It would snap painfully when I’d try bend it until it loosened up, be sore for a few minutes and then feel okay.  So I did some reading about “trigger finger” or “trigger thumb” and tried not to lift anything or strain my thumb. Otherwise, I continued doing everything else as usual including typing, writing, drawing and drawing some more.

During November and December I draw a lot more than usual but I had no idea that I was over-working my right thumb.  Apparently I was.  I use mainly graphite, color pencil and pen & ink in my work so that means holding these small objects for a long time at one sitting.  I also have discovered that I am holding them too tightly as well as too long.

I also have discovered after questions from my doctor and physical therapist that I also tend to hold several other pens that I am not drawing with in my left hand as I work.  I know, how did I just discover that fact? I have no idea.  I’d just never paid any attention to it until they asked about why I had such little range of motion in my left pinky finger.

Unfortunately, I didn’t begin resting my hand nearly soon enough, so now I have to rest it all the time, have anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and wear a splint.  (In case you wonder how I am typing this its very slowly and not using my thumb for the space bar.)

Now to the reason for this little post . . . I don’t know what to do when I can’t write or draw.  I used to think it was bad when I didn’t want to work on a particular piece but now that I can’t work on anything worse. Like, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone,” kind of thing. I have been reading more and taking a few more photos than usual to help with creative withdrawal but that’s it and its not working.

I listen to music a lot but I’m usually doing something else at the same time so I have been spending a little more time just sitting quietly and really listening.  It’s something that I always have done but not nearly enough lately.  It makes me feel better but there’s still this emptiness.  I need to put pen or pencil on paper!

I have a feeling that there’s a reason for this in some way.  Maybe for me to learn something new like not to over do it even if there are deadlines.  But for now I must ask those of you who read this, what do you do when you can’t do what you do?