Archive for Techniques & Strategies
Like most people who sew, I’m a bit of a fabric-aholic. I have a huge stash.
Last week, as I was (semi) organizing my studio, I packed up 2 big bags and gave it away–including a whole bag of pillow forms that I had gotten from someone else.
This was hard to do because I felt guilty about buying the fabric and then not using it. Wasteful.
But I was also happier when it was gone because I didn’t have to go through the guilt of looking at it every day anymore either. And I realized that I had given myself permission to let go of my mistakes.
Why it’s Complicated
I have a friend who is a professional organizer and I have these imaginary conversations with her in my head when I’m tidying my studio. Often these conversations happen because I have piles I can never quite get rid of completely (and I’m wondering how on earth to do that) and sometimes because I’m mentally defending my mounds of supplies that I won’t toss.
I have a box of feathers, for instance, that I’ve owned for over 20 years. Literally. My mom scored them for me at a yard sale in the early nineties. The thing is, I used some of those feathers the other day. And I could tell you that I use them regularly, which is true lately, but I’ve also gone for years when I didn’t use them.
Hence the agony of the arty person. We can have a seemingly ragtag assortment of stuff that sits for ages without getting used. Normally, in the organizing world, that means you must not really want it and you should toss it.
But that’s not so helpful for the arty collagist type person. It’s true that I could never use it but it’s also true that I could.
While I’m definitely a work in progress on clutter and organization myself, I do think, when it comes to art supplies, that normal rules of keeping and tossing don’t apply.
But I also think you can hang on to things too long out of guilt, feeling wasteful, or unrealistic expectations and accidentally create a clutter that interferes with your creativity. This we don’t want!
So here’s a few questions I try to ask myself when I’m attempting to create more order in my studio:
Do I own these bits or do they own me?
Does your stuff control the way you move around? Does it oppress you? Do you feel overwhelmed by it? Being enslaved by your stuff is a sure sign you need to get rid of it (or at least some of it if that statement just gave you a heart attack!) Either way, don’t let your stuff control you–and don’t feel bad about needing help to figure it out either.
Is this stuff about my “Present Me” or my “Past Me?”
Sometimes we hang onto old stories about ourselves when they no longer serve–except to provide us an identity or a comfortable explanation that we’re used to saying: “I’m a _________ (fill in the blank) type artist and that’s why I have all this kind of __________ supplies.
For instance, you might be defining yourself this way: “I always frame all my artwork myself, so I have all this mat board leaning against the wall over there and all these odd sized frames in these milk crates that I scored at yard sales and that big cutter that’s partially blocking the back door until I set it up again…”
But do you still do that? Do you want to? It’s okay to have changed, moved on, realize you don’t like doing that, etc. It’s okay!
(Or if that definition of yourself means a great deal to you and it hurts to get rid of that stuff because of you still want to be that someone who frames all her art, it’s just that you’re not making any art right now, which is what REALLY bums you out….well, it might be a good time to sign up for a phone coaching session where we can figure out how to get you back to that!)
Is it really so precious or could I actually get it again if I got rid of it now and decided I needed it later?
We artists often collect unusual bits that can’t be gotten in a store whenever we feel like it. But that said, we also have an abundant universe.
Even if you can’t get that exact thing again, if you believe that you can always get what you truly need when you need it, you can have faith that when you’re struck by inspiration, you’ll not be suffering without “x” because you tossed it or gave it to charity or sold it at a yard sale to another quirky soul six months ago.
Don’t forget, you’re creative. Part of being creative is coming up with creative solutions. Your creativity is not dependent on your stash of cool bits.
Is it serving me? Is it feeding my creativity? Does it give me joy? Or do I just feel bad about getting rid of it?
You can think something is neat/cool/fun/handy and still get rid of it. By getting rid of it you’re not saying to it: “You are worthless.” You’re just saying, “You’re neat, but I’m about other things now.”
If it truly has value, then you know a thrift store or charity shop will be happy to have it.
Is this about my beliefs about things other than art?
For instance, do you allow yourself to have made a mistake? Sometimes hanging onto stuff forever is about that: never say die!
Or are you like me–is it hard to feel like you “wasted money” and if you throw that out you’re conceding that that’s what you did?
Remember, an abundance of supplies is an expression of loving to create–it might not have been the smartest economic decision ever, but are you giving that mistake too much weight? I mean, have you never ordered the wrong thing at dinner? Bought shoes that don’t fit right?
We all make mistakes, we all use our money unwisely sometimes. If your art supply shopping is preventing you from paying your bills or feeding your kids, okay, you’ve got a problem. But I doubt that’s your situation. Don’t beat yourself up!
Okay, admit it, did you actually forget about it?
Even though I’m a big believer that you have to see your supplies if you want to create, I still have stuff I’ve put in boxes and forgotten about completely. Then, when I open the box I think, “oh yeah, I forgot about that. Hmm…that’s pretty neat.”
Neat or not, that can go. My life was fine without it. My creativity was not informed by it. I didn’t even remember owning it for goodness sakes.
What do you think?
How are you doing with your stuff? Do you allow yourself to make mistakes? Do you let stuff go? Would you feel more free with less clutter?
What are your strategies for keeping on top of your supplies or organizing your studio/workspace corner?
Please leave a comment–we’d love to hear from you and don’t forget, your experiences might help someone else!
When you’re creating something, it’s usually hard to finish it in one sitting. So unless you live alone, it’s highly likely that other people are witnessing your process, your “muck” half way through.
If you make work all the time, this probably isn’t a problem because you’ve got some key factors working in your favor:
- momentum (huge)
- confidence (huge)
- habit (everyone around you is used to you doing it-huge)
But if you are trying to get back into the swing, or you create sporadically, or even if you make things all the time but are nervously TRYING SOMETHING NEW, it can be hard to feel so……………exposed.
Which can stop you even before you get started.
Because really, this fear of exposure is most likely a fear of failure.
It’s hard to make something bad. Or risk making something bad. Because usually, you leap to the (incorrect) conclusion that it means that you’re bad/not talented/a big loser–you know the drill.
(Of course, it does NOT mean that, but a lifetime of conditioning can take a while to undo.)
So how do you move forward while still struggling with your demons?
Two words: Protective Sentences.
I have long relied on protective sentences as a way for me to do what I want and dodge “helpful advice” (not), potential or imagined potential criticism, or even just the potential need to explain myself or what I’m doing to anyone–friend or stranger.
So what’s a protective sentence? I’ll tell you.
Someone says, “What are you making?” or even better…”What is THAT?”
You say your protective sentence:
“I don’t know, I’m experimenting.”
or just “I’m experimenting.” (without pausing to look up because you’re too busy experimenting to stop.)
Then they say, “Oh.”
Because really, what can they say back? It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity.
In fact, if someone else walks up and says “What is that?”
I’ll bet you 10-1 that that first questioner will answer for you, “Oh, she’s experimenting.”
It’s perfect. It’s a huge cocoon that requires no further explanation. It’s my all-time favorite.
And hey, it may not be the bravest thing to do in terms of self-actualization or whatever, but I don’t care about that kind of brave, I care about a bigger brave–you making your stuff or you pushing to your particular edge, or digging deeper, or reaching higher. And if you’re stopping yourself because it feels hard or you may fail or look ridiculous, then it’s imperative to create the conditions you need to take that risk anyway–however teeny or pointless it may seem to someone else.
A good, simple protective sentence can do the trick.
And best of all, they’ll never know!
And while you’re at it, come experiment with me this Sunday!
Sign up for the Creative Breakthrough’s Collage Tele-Class–it’s over the phone (not online) and it’s super simple and fun to participate. It’s happening this Sunday, October 21st, at 3pm EST.
(And if someone asks what you’re doing, tell them “I’m experimenting.”)
Do you have any protective sentences that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
It’s the end of the year which for many of us is a time of reflection–especially this last week between Christmas and the New Year.
The idea behind an annual theme is to provide yourself a unifying idea or motif that you can return to and interpret over the course of time and to help you connect any specific goals you might create with your highest desires for yourself.
And you can’t break your theme either, so there’s no failure factor which is a nice change of pace from the inevitable breaking that seems to happen within a few weeks or months for most of us with New Year’s resolutions.
This year I’m inviting you to choose a theme specifically for your creativity–your goals, dreams, secret wishes–however humble or lofty they might be.
It’s useful to keep it to a few words. Take your time thinking about what you want for your creative self, and how that might be captured as a theme. Your theme might come to you instantly, or it might take a few weeks to evolve.
To give you some ideas about what your theme might look like, here are some suggestions to spark your imagination:
- Dig Deeper
- Loving Patience (with yourself of course)
- Be Consistent
- One Foot in Front of the Other
- Show Up
- Look and Listen
- Be Joyful
- Be Present
- Be Committed
- Take Risks
As you consider what theme will most benefit you in 2011, you might also want to develop a tagline. Last year, for instance, my theme for my business was Break Through and my tagline was Have Faith.
I felt like this combination was the perfect expression of what I was hoping for myself–to push past some self-imposed barriers while also not forcing things or fretting–having faith that things would unfold the way they should.
So you could resonate with one of the suggestions from the list above and use it for your theme–and then use another word from the list as your perfect tagline.
For instance, your theme could be Take Risks with the tagline Acceptance–this tagline can help you remember to be on your own side as you take your risks, which is important if you commit to sticking your neck out on a regular basis.
Or perhaps you’d like your theme to be Be Present (with your creativity), with the tagline Allow.
It can be easier to stop judging yourself and let yourself Be Present with where you are in your creative process when you Allow yourself to make mistakes, make bad stuff, or be a beginner.
See how it works? I love it.
What’s Your Theme?
So, what do you think? Are you ready to create yourself a theme for your creativity this 2011? Do you know what that is already, or are you just putting on your thinking cap?
Please share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
I’ve got an exciting new offer! You can now get a FREE trial of the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class just by signing up for my newsletter–right up there on the right of your screen.
Watch my short video where I explain all about it:
(if you’re receiving this in your email and you can’t see the video, click on this link: http://makegreatstuff.com/free-trial/)
How Do Current Subscribers Get the Coupon?
If you already subscribe to my blog, thank you!
However, I’d love for you to re-subscribe because I’m using a different service that behaves better, lets me put the title of the post into the email subject line (so you can tell before you open it if it’s probably something that interests you), and sends prettier emails.
And if you do, you’ll get a coupon for a FREE trial of the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class.
This class is a great way to get unstuck, work around your self–censorship, and make time for your creativity every week.
And if you’ve already taken a Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class, you still completely qualify for a FREE coupon–just re-subscribe and it should arrive in your email shortly.
(You’re doing me a huge favor by switching subscription services, so I’m happy for you to have a free coupon.)
I’d be honored if you’d share this offer with everyone you think might benefit so they can get back to their creative selves as well.
Tweet it, put the link in your FB profile, or email it to friends and family.
Here’s the link that has the video and explains all about it: http://makegreatstuff.com/free-trial/
Thank you, I really appreciate your willingness to spread the creative love.
I hope to “see” you on a call soon, and I really look forward to making art together!
Big hugs, Sarah
Because you are creative, creating is a critical part of taking care of yourself, as much as exercising, meditating or eating right.
And yet, it’s so easy to put your artmaking and creativity dead last–certainly after your obligations at work and meeting the needs of your family–two giant parts of life that are pretty compelling–but even after exercising, meditating, and eating right.
The thing is, “last” usually means “not at all” because we run out of time, energy or both.
And while it’s certainly it’s not a zero sum game–for instance, eating right and finding time for your creativity aren’t mutually exclusive–it’s worth considering why certain areas of your life get so much time and attention, and other areas so little.
Simple Changes/Big Symbolism
Let’s start with the “eating right’ thing.
I mean, sure, you and your family need to eat right, but is there a way to make it less time consuming? Can you pick a night that you order in and set aside that meal prep time for your artmaking instead?
Making this kind of simple change rarely affects just you, so it probably also includes having a conversation about it with your spouse/significant other.
Which is why you may unconsciously avoid it. But it’s also why you should really do it.
Because such a conversation can be a wonderful game changer for two reasons:
1. You’re saying out loud to the other important creator/maintainer of your current routine that you want to make a change in the current family system in order to carve out time for your creativity, which is a big step toward actually doing that–making the intention “public” if you will.
2. It’s a hugely symbolic, habit-shifting, mind-changing statement, because you’re also declaring out loud that your creativity is a priority to you.
So much so that you’re willing to have a conversation about re-arranging a family pattern to do it.
Even if this information surprises them. Even if you’re rusty, or it’s been a while. Even if it means that you’ll continue to have angst about your art during your desired, requested, routine-shaking newly carved out time.
Don’t Wait Until Your “Serious”
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to wait until you’re “ready” to have this kind of conversation or make this kind of change.
You don’t have to “prove” anything to anyone once you do change your routine and make time for your creative endeavors by being super productive or making “great art.”
Even if other peoples’ routines have been affected.
This can be hard, uncomfortable, even scary–you might feel exposed or like your family is now expecting/waiting to see what fabulousness you going to start cranking out now that you’ve shaken things up.
You did not, however, make a promise, you declared an intention.
You’re simply making space for your creativity. To let it evolve and grow. It doesn’t mean all your mixed feelings go away. It doesn’t mean you’re suddenly freed up from all your angst and self doubt.
It just means you’re willing to be on your own side. To make a place for this essential part of you. That it matters as much as anything else.
I think that’s good. What do you think?
Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-Class
If such a thing tempts you, but you’re not sure how you’d actually use time set aside weekly for your creativity, why not sign up for a Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-Class?
It’s an affordable, EASY way to be creative every week, and you don’t have to self-motivate–just call in and we make art together–no matter how not-creative you’re feeling and no matter what’s hectic-ness has been happening.
You also get to you connect with other like minded artists from the comfort of your own home. What could be better?
In a busy life, lots of things have a momentum all their own–getting to work, getting kids off to school, getting dinner prepared, cleaning up–so they happen like clockwork.
Whether you’re passionate about them or not.
Meanwhile, other things that you really want to happen seem to fall by the wayside every week. Like your art.
And so you question yourself–Maybe I’m not really serious about doing it. Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I don’t really have what it takes.
None of those mean judgments are true.
What is true is that you do have to create a momentum for your art in order for it to have a place in your life and that requires a good strategy.
One strategy that people rarely mention is the need for effective transitions.
Transitions are invisible hooks and rituals built into the pattern of your day that allow you to move more easily from one activity to the next. We all use them regardless of how aware we are of their existence.
For instance, a common (often not-so-helpful) transition for coming home from work is to open the refrigerator and find something to eat. It rarely driven by hunger but is a repeated pattern that transitions you from “work mode” to “home mode.”
If you have to cook for other people every evening, your mind starts working on it an hour or two ahead of time and you transition to this activity by stopping in the grocery store on your way home to pick up a few things.
As you’re doing this, you’re mentally transitioning from work to meal prep, and the grocery stop helps you do it.
That’s why, if you have insomnia, it’s recommended that you create a “before bed” ritual that you don’t deviate from–you’re triggering your body to transition to sleep mode.
So. Your current routine has lots of momentum that’s aided and abetted by both small and big transitional rituals that help keep everything moving–regardless of how you might feel about them.
Your art needs these same transition helpers. And the good news is that you can create them!
They don’t have to be big or complicated–your brain loves symbols and will respond well to them.
For instance, costumes and uniforms are very effective symbols for us humans–so simply putting on an art apron might help you transition to making-art-mode.
I know when I don’t feel like going to the gym, changing into my gym clothes genuinely helps me get out the door because it helps my mind switch gears–even when I’m grumpy about it.
Of course, your costume transition symbol doesn’t have to be practical. Maybe you want to adorn yourself with the perfect art tiara to wear when you’re ready to signal the muse that it’s time to make some art.
(Most of us could use more fun in our lives, so infusing some fun and lightness into the process is a fantastic way to help yourself look forward to these transitions and therefore to your creating time.)
The Power of Place
Setting up your studio/work area is another great way to transition. (My smart friend Cairene at Third Hand Works calls this “preparing your container.”)
That might mean simply cleaning off your table top or pulling your supplies out of a (special) box or placing a framed picture of one of your art heroes out in the open to help inspire your actions as you get started.
And don’t forget the power of playing favorite music as part of your work space preparation–music alone can be a hugely effective transitional trigger to help you switch gears–so combining it with other transitional rituals is even better.
(You might find that playing the same song every time is especially effective–harking back to my workout routine, I always use the fastest song I own as the first one on my workout playlist because it really helps sets the tone for a successful run.)
Other options might include burning incense, meditating for a few minutes or saying a prayer or affirmation–the possibilities are endless.
Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment–the transitions you create just have to work for you.
Why Do We Need This?
There are lots of mundane tasks we have to do and so we’ve already done the work to create transitions to help us do them.
The things (our art) that we want for ourselves are often bigger than the mundane tasks that make up much of our routines so they require extra attention to carve a space for them because they’re harder.
And they don’t have momentum–yet.
Figuring out effective rituals that help you more easily transition to your essential creative self is a necessary part of building that momentum.
Which is how you can make your art and creativity have as much of a role in your life as all those other things that fight to steal your attention and fill your time–especially those things you don’t even care about.
What Do You Think?
What transitions do you currently use in your life? Which ones do you like? What are ways that you could help yourself transition to “creating mode” from “work mode” or “helping-everyone-else mode?” Leave a comment, I’d love to hear!
(This is my 100th post! Yay, milestone! Thank you for being one of my readers. You make it worth it for me to write.
I’d love it if you’d help me celebrate and invite new readers by linking to me on Twitter or FaceBook or Linkedin or your favorite discussion forum–anywhere cool you hang out–and telling people why you like reading this blog. Thank you and big hugs!)
Finding Your Voice
If it’s been a while since you made anything, you might feel like you’ve lost your artistic voice.
Or you might feel like you’ve never had the chance to develop it.
It’s hard to develop your voice if you feel like you have to squeeze your creativity in between the busy-ness of the rest of your life. But if you pay attention to yourself and all your creative actions, however small or sporadic, it will slowly reveal itself to you.
And the more you create, the more you’ll see it–which can feel exciting. This, in turn, can spur you on to make more art.
Even Creative Professionals Don’t Have it Easy
Making a living being creative does not necessarily help you develop your own artistic voice either.
As someone who has designed a lot of product over the years, I got very good at expressing my boss’s voice, or the owner of the company’s voice, or just knocking off whatever was on trend that we knew would sell (as fast as humanly possible). Because that was my job.
In fact, most design jobs require you to express someone else’s voice.
Usually I felt like a design chameleon–just tell me what you want and I can make it. I automatically sized up everything I looked at, trying to figure out how it was made, if I could do it.
I never just looked at something. Hazard of the job.
Which means even if you are creative for a living, you might still need to (re)discover your own voice.
So what’s a girl to do?
Pay Attention to Yourself
Pay attention to yourself as an artist by observing your choices and dwelling on your motivations regarding those choices.
This act alone is taking a giant step closer to taking your art-making more seriously.
Which is fantastic. Not ‘more seriously’ as in feeling emotionally heavy about your art, but ‘more seriously’ as in treating it like something that matters. Because it does.
Because it’s your ever-evolving creative essence with huge possibilities, that’s why!
Oh. (That’s you saying “oh.” I’ll let you sit with that one for a minute.)
As you wrap your head around that thought, as you start treating your creative self more seriously, it’s also important to continue to keep an eye on all your artistic decisions.
To see where your creativity is taking you–to find out what’s in your heart and what you’re trying to express.
Because frankly, your brain usually doesn’t really know. So it has to pay attention if it wants to find out.
Which is handy, because it’s great when your brain and your heart are working together as a team, it helps things flow.
But what exactly do I mean when I say “pay attention to yourself as an artist?”
Concrete Ways to Pay Attention to Yourself as an Artist
Notice your color choices and why you’re choosing them. Were they always your color choices? Do they feel like an accident or a habit or do you use them because they feel ‘safe’?
Or do they feel like you’re inexorably drawn to them?
Notice what images resonate with you. Are you drawn to certain shapes, marks, particular motifs that speak to you?
Or do you suspect that your choices are more trend-driven–relying on the motifs you see in work published in magazines that have passed the “good art” test (because they’re published)?
It’s great to be inspired by other artwork, I am all the time, but you also don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to make sure you make something good by replicated a popular look–your voice needs to be heard in its unique expression.
For instance, coffee cup rings and envelopes are two of the marks and shapes that are important recurring motifs for me.
So I honor them. Which is the important next step. Don’t decide they’re silly or strange or not arty enough.
And you don’t necessarily have to understand your motifs or be able to explain them.
You just have to honor them.
Because they’re all part of your particular visual language and are your tools for expressing your creative vision.
Not sure if you have particular personal motifs? Keep noticing, they’ll start to crop up.
The same goes for brushstroke and line and medium–do you tend to turn to charcoal or pastel? Hard crisp pencil lines or fat markers? What about paint–oil, watercolor or acrylic?
Maybe your medium is needle and thread or beads or clay–ask yourself why your medium of choice resonates with you. What are you trying to express that this particular medium provides?
Just notice and honor, because your choices aren’t an accident.
As you begin perceiving all your creative choices as evidence of your artistic voice that you want to nurture and develop, you’ll start to feel a powerful shift in the way you treat your creative endeavors.
The Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-Class
Which is why I created the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class.
To provide some structured support to hold you up as you explore your creative voice. To allow you to experiment, take risks, find your edge.
While it can seem weird to not see the teacher or the other students in class, it’s also a fantastic chance to be undistracted by other people’s choices and decisions. To not compare yourself to anyone. To let your creative voice have a chance to emerge and grow and endlessly become.
I’d love for you to use the tele-classes as a tool–whether that’s to help wake up your slumbering creator from a deep sleep or to develop different creative challenges for your actively creative self every week.
No matter where you are on the productivity spectrum, this tele-class can be a life-affirming date with your artistic self to have permission to play, observe, and take risks.
To increase your self-confidence and give you a chance to experience the joy of knowing your creative soul more deeply, to feel intimately connected to your own true self.
You can sign up here: http://makegreatstuff/classes.