Sunday, 7 October 2012

Where did that creative spark go?

Dear Helen,

I could ignore the fact that our conversation seems to have lapsed, but the struggle to return to creative expression is what I'm going to talk about today, and the silence here is a reflection of that same struggle. But before I go forward talking my own creative life (or lack thereof) I wanted to respond to what you talked about last: the working in a series class you did and how it has affected you.

Now, I happen to know that you are a highly motivated person, and when you are intent on doing something, you do it full tilt. So I have come to know that even without classes to schedule a pace for you or give you assignments, you will charge ahead and make things. It is one of the many things I admire about you, how you set yourself a task and head toward it with great purpose.

But I know, from our non TT4T conversations and from seeing your work, that the series courses you did have helped you grow. I see you doing things differently in your work, even approaching your work differently. It seems to me that you have an attitude that each piece is a learning opportunity and a step in your journey. Is that true? I've told you, as well, that I really like the pieces you did in your course, and looking over the blog I like them even more. I hope you'll write here soon about where they have led you since you posted.

So. Here is the topic I bring up for discussion today: How to find creative energy when you're just not feeling any. You know that matters in my personal life have been absorbing and draining me over the past few months. Ordinarily, doing something creative would have been my mental refuge. In this phase, though, I've not had the energy to even putter. I've done a lot of beating myself up over being lazy and undisciplined and self-indulgent, and I can tell you now that THAT sort of self-talk isn't helpful in the creative motivation department. And of course, if someone asked me about this issue, I'd say what I've heard and read all over: you have to just get in and DO something. Put yourself in your studio and make yourself do something, however dull or uninspired it feels. But somehow that simply didn't take me anywhere.

I must say that I've found that the issues that have affected my personal life have translated into a twitchy, dissatisfied feeling in my creative world. I can't seem to get comfortable in my tiny office/studio. I chafe at the lack of space and have gotten very cranky about not being able to spread out. I've grumbled at not being able to find the supplies I need and know I have, somewhere. I don't like anything I make. It's as if the things I'm struggling with in real life are carrying over to my creative self. Something's not fitting right, and trying to make it work just makes me irritable and frustrated.

So I've turned to a lethargic, listless browsing of blogs and Pinterest and websites in an effort to just soak up things that feel good. Pinterest is an amazing wealth of visual inspiration, and I've let myself get lost in collecting images that please and inspire me. I figure that I'm in a resting, soaking phase. Building an internal foundation, as it were. Hah. Sounds good, huh? But there is something hopeful about looking at the Pinterest images and other creative sources. I'm starting to get a glimmer of a feeling of "I can see using that pattern in something like ..." and I've even pulled out my sketchbook a time or two to make sketches. It's a little step forward, and that's good.

Our recent Twelve by Twelve "maverick" deadline also cornered me into doing something. Deadlines are good that way. I'd mentioned to you that I was playing with a maverick idea for weeks, trying different things, adding bits ... it was feeling horrid and unpleasant and, at the end, it was a big, horrid mess. (I wrote about it here and you can confirm that I am right.) Coming up to the deadline with nothing presentable forced me to retreat to the basics: very simple drawing and then emphasizing it with stitching.

Meanwhile, a group of friends (most of whom I met in an online sketching and painting class) and I decided to give ourself a weekly drawing task, simply to get us drawing. The first "weeklie" topic was Bird, and out of fear of painting a real bird, I resorted to drawing a china figurine that sits in my office.

And oh my, did that feel good! Drawing and painting is very meditative. Especially the drawing part -- which is not so much about making creative decisions but just LOOKING and SEEING and translating that to moving the pencil on the page. It is hand-eye coordination, not deciding what something SHOULD look like, it's trying to see what it actually is.

I'm glad to report that a little logjam of sorts has been broken, and I'm finding myself drawn (ha, pun intended) to my sketchbook to give myself the mental peace of just looking at something and drawing it. I even ventured a try at a real bird:

I'm feeling a sense of relief and pleasure and finding a corner of creativity that's alive in me right now. Phew.

It's not grand. But it feels good.

This afternoon I will head out to Bishop's Ranch for an abbreviated time at the fall retreat. I can only stay for two days before I head off for other commitments (more on that soon) but I know it will feel so good to be here. And I'm hoping that the energy of so many creative women will fan my tiny, re-awakened creative spark. I wish you could be there!

So, tell me -- have you had a period where you just felt devoid of all creative impulses? If so, what did you do? If that hit you, what would you do?

love, Diane

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