Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's OK. You Don't Have to Be Creative All The Time

The creative process is a subject that I have written about and taught classes on for the last 20 years.  The lessons and insights associated with the creative cycle are with us everyday, throughout every season if we only take the time to observe and absorb them into our life.

Right now, for example, it happens to be Fall.  This particular time of year most artists and craft people are highly compelled to produce work because it ties in so importantly to their Holiday sales.  And as we all know, money is an  huge motivating factor for almost anyone.
But... January and February are right around the corner.  Many of the same people who are now working so hard will undoubtedly find themselves in burnout mode....unable to do much of anything even if they want to.

The following piece "It's OK.  You Don't Have to Be Creative All the Time" was originally written and published a few years ago during a period of time when I was hearing an overwhelming amount of complaints from fellow artists about their lack of creative spirit.  I hope you enjoy the piece and it will inspired you to think about where happen to be on your Creative Wheel right now, and not feel so guilty about the quiet times ahead.
***
Over the last few weeks there have been several instances where the subject of “I just can’t seem to do anything creative” has come up.  I’ve heard it in discussions, read about it in blog posts, and have experienced the frustration first hand with friends and family members who felt that they should be more creatively “productive”...but it just wasn’t happening for them.

You know what? It’s OK. I really believe that although we are all creative beings, our ebb and flow isn’t always switched on to “fabulous” or “produce” mode 24/7. Why people continue to beat themselves up with the false belief that it should be is just silly.

I didn't always feel this way, or have a clear understanding of the creative process. It wasn’t until I started working so closely with circle imagery (the mandala form) in my artwork that I came to fully understand and appreciate this concept.

Everything really does have a beginning, middle and an end.  Also, however, there is a lot of “in-between” that is can be pretty uneventful that no one likes to talk about or acknowledge. Whether it be a person’s life cycle, making art, or taking a trip the to grocery store...the same order of process applies.

Metaphorically speaking, we all dance around the circle.  Around the circle, around the circle....and when there is a pause, we are not always positioned at the top, or at our peak moment. It’s how we handle the “non top times” that matter in our lives. Are we frustrated? Do we shower that frustration on to others and as a result bring their spirits down too? Or are we a little more wu-wei about it and just move away quietly to something else, mentally switching gears and changing our approach?

From an artistic standpoint I learned not fight my creative lows, and I’m much more centered and content as a result. If a painting just isn’t “coming", I don’t struggle with it but move on to something else related to my artwork or jewelry business. A task more mundane seems to always work well for me. It shifts my mind from thinking and feeling to a physical, doable chore.

Stretching and gessoing canvases, for example, has always seemed to be one activity that is good solution for me. I have to make canvasses anyway.  I might as well stretch, staple and gesso away my otherwise unproductive time (and not think about it). It works wonders.
 
If I’m designing jewelry and it’s not going right, I paint. Or I clean my studio, work on my online shops, take photographs, or cook. If I’m just stuck in general and don’t feel very inspired, weeding through the multitude of “stuff” in my studio also works it's magic on me.  Looking through items that you have saved, or even old artwork, can be an amazing creative trigger.

Or, if all else fails, you can just do like Buddy Fergurson (to the right)....and take a nap!  Naps, to many artists, are vital to their creative flow.  Both for physical as well as mental reasons.

Whatever your personal “artistic slump” solution may be, the important thing is that you have one.
Learn to recognize when your flow is about to stall and understand that it is a normal part of life and the creative process.
Use this time to explore other artistic options.
Don’t take your frustration or sullen mood out on others.
and
Switch your routine up a little.
When your creative circle dance picks up again, you’ll find yourself in a very satisfying new place as a result.
  • artwork... Mandala # 5, Nautica by Diane Fergurson, copyright Diane Fergurson
  • the artwork pictured above with Buddy...still isn't finished.  I haven't been in the mood!  :) 
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What Motivates You as an Artist?

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