Archive for Art
- A deadline (the holiday itself).
Most people are helped by deadlines because deadlines are structure and frankly, most of us function better with structure.
- A concrete reason why (giving a gift).
When you live a busy life and want to insert creativity into your already overloaded schedule, a concrete reason that matters to you–like giving a gift–can be a critical piece in keeping you motivated.
But another reason these 2 motivators are so helpful is that they let you create while simultaneously shielding you from more debilitating issues often simmering below the surface–the complicated emotional stuff that makes it had to get started in the humdrum routine of your daily life.
Let me explain.
Even though it’s not mentioned much, it actually takes a lot of self-esteem to create. Seriously, a lot.
The more personal your vision for a particular project, the more self-esteem it takes.
When your motivation for creating something is simply personal, it often doesn’t take long to lose your drive to continue as soon as anything goes not-quite-as-originally-envisioned–especially when the big meanie in your head smells blood and takes that as her cue to start rolling her eyes and getting sarcastic.
It’s easy to feel silly and think, “Why bother?”
And yet, as we all know too well, you don’t “voila!” become a whole human being with great self-esteem just out of a deep desire to let go of your garbage belief systems–they are. after all, fully developed systems that self-perpetuate.
So what’s a girl to do?
The Healing is in the Doing
The only way to build up your self-esteem to really create what you’re born to create is to just start making stuff without all that required self-esteem–but with whatever self-esteem you can muster at the moment.
I know it probably sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t.
The more you create, the more courage you have to continue to create and–here’s the kicker–the more room you make for that creating to become bigger/more/deeper/richer/braver/ than what you’re currently doing now.
SO worth the effort.
You may have heavy feelings about your creativity or talent or skill level, but it’s important to find ways to dig back in anyway because you’re NOT going to cure your heavy feelings first and then make stuff. It just doesn’t work that way.
Instead, your heavy feelings will
go away greatly diminish as you face them in the act of creating.
Every step you take on your creative path is progress and you must continue that journey any chance you have with whatever energy or focus you can muster because it is your job to be your best self.
And to do that, you must use whatever crutch will help you–and two of my favorite crutches are DEADLINES AND REASONS!
YES! Thank you Holidays!
DI(F)Y: Do It (for) Yourself
Now I’m going to take this thought one step further and suggest you introduce a little selfishness into the equation!
Selfish Angle #1: Make it Easy
You could use the holidays to have some creative success–make something that’s guaranteed to work to give you some confidence and have fun–a little bit of creating with no heaviness attached might be just the perfect thing to feed your creative heart.
For instance, you could buy an ornament kit from me, make some simple gifts that are fun, pretty and super EASY and just remember how good it feels to use your hands and “make.”
Or, if ornaments aren’t your thing, do something else–maybe make simple earrings from beautiful beads–or whatever project strikes your fancy AND feels easy, do-able and fun.
The point is, why struggle?
Selfish Angle #2: Learn A New Technique
For instance, one year I decided I really wanted to learn how to create decoupage plates and I made these. I needed a good motivator to learn that skill and giving those gifts was a great one. They were a lot of work but I was thrilled with the result and so were my recipients.
The year I bought myself a serger, the women in my family each got a serged top because I wanted to learn how to use my machine. (Perhaps not my most successful gift giving season that year, but hey, I learned a lot and I tried hard! )
This year, I’m going to tackle metal clay jewelry. I’ve been wanting to learn metal clay for a few years now but just haven’t gotten to it–so the holiday provides me with my reason and a deadline to make it happen.
Success Sneaks Up on You
Both these simple strategies that insert your creative priorities into your gift giving can help you make the holidays work for you and continue to provide you with straightforward reasons to make things all year long (think birthdays!)
This structure of regular creating will slowly free you up over time AND help you build a creative momentum (the real ticket). Soon, you’ll notice your creative activity getting bigger and braver and increasingly satisfying.
And that, let me tell ya, feels great.
How About You?
What do you think about all this? Will you make any holiday gifts this year? Will you use the holiday to learn something new or do something that relaxes and fulfills you–or…………………………BOTH? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!
The range of loss was huge–I lost power for a few days but that was all. Most of my friends in Brooklyn were completely untouched, but couldn’t get anywhere while the subways weren’t working. A colleague in Long Island lost her entire house and felt lucky to escape with her life.
One thing everyone shares, though, is the discombobulation.
Every time I see someone I haven’t seen since the storm, the conversation usually starts there–are you safe–who was affected and how. Eventually one of us mentions having difficulty getting back to business or being productive. When I describe it as feeling “discombobulated” whomever I’m talking to quickly agrees–yes, that’s how I feel. Discombobulated.
It’s made me remember that we humans are like dogs–we’re pack animals. Social. Some of us in this region are struggling mightily, some of us not so much, but all of us feel it. We are recovering together and even though the physical environment for many of us is back to normal, we, as a group, are not yet.
This reminder has made me think about ALL the ways our individual feelings are created by our larger associations–we are also our families, our cultures, and our environments. And those collective connections affect the way we think, how we feel and what we believe.
The Collective Unconscious
For instance, I was listening to an NPR story about differing Western and Eastern beliefs about school and learning–how in this country we tend to believe that someone succeeds in school because they are naturally intelligent, and how many Asian cultures believe that someone succeeds in school through hard work. Intelligence is much less discussed and focused on.
The story described a study that was done with American and Japanese first-graders–they were all given a math problem beyond their grade level to see how long they’d struggle with it.
The American children stopped after 30 seconds (literally) and explained that it was too hard, that they hadn’t gotten to that yet. A classroom of Japanese 6 year olds worked on the problem for the entire hour and only stopped when the researchers intervened because finding something hard, or a struggle, wasn’t a reason to stop.
So of course the commentator went on to discuss how there were strengths and weaknesses in both,but I walked away from that story completely enamored with this concept of treating struggle as a normal part of the learning process rather than functioning as a sign one should quit.
Not only because it IS a natural part of the learning process, but because it buys you so much…everything–time, patience, mercy–you don’t have to decide you’re a failure, for instance, if you haven’t mastered something in whatever unreasonable amount of time in which you usually reach that conclusion–it makes you treat all the obstacles in any project as normal.
In terms of creativity and art making, most people I meet think that you’re either a natural talent or you’re not. Which actually doesn’t leave much room for struggle and perseverance.
For instance, a friend of mine confided that she’d like to start drawing again, but she can’t bring herself to do it because her husband is so much better than she is. He also draws all the time.
I reminded her that it would actually be kind of weird (and unfair even) if she could draw as well as he when she never does it and he does it all the time. She smiled ruefully. How can you let yourself start creating if you think that struggle means you should read the writing on the wall and give up?
And if you think about it, it’s actually a kind of weird back-handed compliment to her husband–like, sure, he does it, but he’s naturally good at it, so it’s not an effort somehow–which actually completely disregards his commitment and makes the time he’s put in invisible.
Untying the Knot
Respecting the struggle is respecting yourself. Accepting the struggle is honoring the process.
And yet, when things get hard, it’s so tantalizing to believe, “I guess I don’t have that special knack, that natural talent.” It’s hard to sink into the struggle with loving patience–and one of the reasons it’s hard is because you’re not alone in this belief– it turns out we have a collective cultural belief about ease and talent that makes us judge ourselves harshly and give up too quickly.
It’s hard because you’re not just working to untie the knot of your own confusion and unhelpful beliefs, you’re un-tying yourself from the entire culture’s knot of confusion and unhelpful beliefs.
But just because it’s a struggle to buck the tide of the larger society, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And as our culture ALSO likes to say “If it isn’t hard, it isn’t worth doing.” (Yay for contradiction!)
Do you allow yourself to struggle? Do you expect yourself to be good at something instantly? Do you not like to struggle with art skills in particular because you think you’re should be better at it than you are because you’re arty?
Please share your thoughts in the comments, your experiences might help someone else!
So when I found out that Ira Glass has made 4 videos on the creative process, I had to watch them.
(Well, ostensibly, he’s talking about story-telling and the art of making stories for the radio because that’s what he does, but really, he’s talking about the creative process. So if you don’t make stories, every time he says the word “stories” just replace it with the word “visual art” in your mind and it all still works.)
I loved all four, but I’m thinking that you probably won’t watch all four. But you should watch at least one.
So I’ve picked #3 and I’m sticking it here because he talks about something that no one really mentions when they discuss the creative process–what to do when what you make doesn’t measure up to your own taste level–what you personally consider really good.
He talks about why that’s completely normal, and the simple thing you must do to get beyond it. I love that he’s done this.
(And I’m not going to tell you what that simple thing is, because I want you to watch it. )
So even though he’s talking about stories and story-telling, it’s relevant for ALL creators of anything.
Here it is, I hope you watch it: