Friday, March 18, 2011

When the Creative Juices Are Flowing -or- Biproducts of the Compulsively Crafty

For us artsy folk there seems to be a cyclical effect to the creative process.  We all go through slumps, and we all go through highs.  Sometimes we are bursting with ideas.  Sometimes we hate every damn thing we make.  I know I go through this constantly.  So I thought I'd explore this a little more, and share how I navigate my hills and valleys of drawing from one's imagination to keep things fresh and interesting.
The Craftball Machine - a REALLY good idea.  Kids are powerless to resist it. 

When I'm on my game, I know it.  I feel good, my brain is whirring, I can literally feel the cogs turning and cranking out new ideas.  At the pinnacle of this I am simply crackling with creativity, it feels like electricity is coarsing through me and I need to make things NOW.  This is the very sweetest spot to be in, and alas, the most elusive.  When I am in this rare space of euphoria I feel confident I can do no wrong, and I am the best damn artist on the planet.

The direct opposite of this is the dreaded SLUMP.  Oh, how I hate the slump.  Everything I make is crap.  I don't have a single original idea in my head.  Everything I've EVER made is crap.  I am uninspired, trite, derivative, and I should just give up now and spare the world my efforts.  This sad state of affairs is also extremely rare, thankfully, though it seems to coincide with being turned away from a show I really wanted to be a part of, or being declined from a magazine I sent my best work, etc.  Rejection is an excellent entrance point to this downward spiral. 

Pirate monkey always cheers me up when I need it.  Want one of your own?  Dingo Girl will hook you up, no problem.

Now, these two are obviously extremes, and if they were recurrent on a more regular basis I'm pretty sure I'd be bipolar.  But as that is one of the few issues my therapist has NOT brought up in the laundry list of things I should be working on, I'm going to go on the assumption this is pretty normal.   

What is the norm for me is somewhere in-between.  Little moments of doubt creep in here and there.  Days where i don't feel like making anything balance out days where I feel certain of the path I am following and want to see some results take shape.  I hardly ever feel like I am being productive enough.  It is often hard to stay focused.  I want to check my email, see who's on facebook, browse etsy for things I can't afford.  Anything but sit down and stay committed to the task at hand.
It is so easy to get caught up in too much at once.

I find my potholes seem to involve having too many projects going on at once.  Sometimes I have so many ideas hitting me I am split into too many directions.  That's currently where I am now.  There are 7 projects on the sewing table waiting to be made, photographed, and listed in my shop.  I have a huge challenge project for PlushTeam that is sort of percolating in a limbo state.  I'm dying to experiment with resin and make bangle bracelets filled with good n' plenty candy.  I'm in the process of making my Pullip doll a collage-covered dollhouse that has been taking up the coffee table for the better part of two weeks.  I am too scattered and there isn't enough focus on any one project. 
Tiling the roof of the house in paper samples and cereal boxes.

The solution when I get like this?  Play music, and work on one project at a time so that I can see something finished and continue to move forward.  Upbeat music really seems to keep me moving at a better pace.  Occasionally, if I have quiet hand-work to do, I'll put in an audiobook.  This runs the risk of me getting caught up in the story instead of focusing on the project, however.  I mean, you really want to give Neil Gaiman your full attention, don't you?  Another key to keeping focus is making to-do lists, sometimes with due dates.  Open-ended projects are the easiest to let fall by the way-side.  That must be why my first quilt is collecting dust and is perpetually unfinished.  Also, keeping my space neat(ish) and tidy(ish) helps me feel less chaotic and scattered.
My work space is eclectic and inspiring, in my eyes.

But what to do if you have no ideas in that poor empty noggin?  That's the worst, isn't it?  For me, it's when I'm cluttered and distracted and anxiety is getting the best of me that I am truly constipated creatively.  The hardest part of clearing the block is being motivated to do so.  If I can defeat the apathy monster looming over me, if I get into a routine, meditate, lie in Shavasana after a really great yoga practice, that's when I will suddenly have the thunderbolt of an idea hit me again.  It's like a rainfall after a long, dry spell.  It's delicious, it makes the colors brighter all around me, and I can't wait to get my hands into my next project.  And so the cycle begins again. 
The cover to Sappho the sewing machine.  She likes to travel in style!

One last note on rejection.  I had this hit recently and it really got me down.  My lovely friends rallied around me, gave me tons of advice, and assured me it was the rejecter's loss, not mine.  So, I recommend having a lovely circle of friends as a support group to give you a nice pet as you lick your wounds.  And you do have to give yourself a bit of a pity party when this happens.  Give into it for a day or two, at most three, and then move on.  Sure, being turned down sucked, but then I gave it some thought and realized I had so many other great opportunities surrounding me - one I had just finished (and I can't wait to tell you about when it's time), another that presented itself out of the blue - there will always be some yeses along with the nos.  I do feel like princess-of-quite-a-lot lately and will just revel in that.

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