An artist friend once said, "What I want to do, for ME, has eluded me."
Boy, did that resonate for me! For 35 years, I did "art to order" by designing theatre costumes and scenery on assignment. People would ask what show I would really want to do and I had no idea! Still don’t.
It does get hard to hear your own drummer in the clammor of making a living. You have too long attended to outside influences to follow the advice, “Just let yourself go.” Yeah, sure. You're in the habit of ignoring what it is you love and what speaks to you. Of course, you know what you're supposed to do, but the question is really how to do it.
Many years ago Shelley Berman said something that rang a bell for me. I will have to paraphrase very roughly but the gist was that when he was caught dozing or staring into space, he would say he wasn't sleeping, he was creating. It's actually true for me.
I do my best thinking in that lovely place between being awake and sleep. In the dark, head under a pillow so there's no visual input available, I wander around in my mind. I sculpt, or draw, or paint in my head. Or I will "see" something already finished. If I go to sleep thinking about something, I can pick the thread right up when I awaken....which happens several times in the night for this old girl. I also prefer soaking in a tub to showering and have learned to doze into that place there. Especially if I have a few candles burning instead of any electric lights.
Music helps, too, but it must be something that I don't know the words to. Classical or jazz, or what they call on NPR music from the hearts of space - Philip Glass type stuff. It is essential to be in non-verbal mode.
I long ago learned that I dare not put pencil to paper until I can see an image fairly clear in my head, which I must close my eyes to see. If I start sketching too soon, what the pencil does seduces me and I lose the image in my head.
There's a strong element of right brain orientation here. When what you want is WAAAAAY off to the right, over several hills and across untold distance, that definitely calls for a Philip Glass soundtrack.