Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Watering a Dry Spell

I'd just about guarantee that we all know the feeling of being in a creative dry spell. Your mind is empty, that piece of writing paper is excessively blank, designs refuse to work the way they should, and you'd rather be sitting in the sun sipping something frothy and fruity than be anywhere near your office or work table. What do you do when the artistic doldrums take root?

Well, I wish I could say I had all the answers to wash away the blahs, but I don't. In fact, here I am, 9:30 - no, now 11:30, the night before this blog entry is due, and I haven't a clue what to write. I feel like I am back in school trying to compose that 15-page paper that I waited until the last minute to write. I remember sitting in my parents' basement (my desk and stereo were down there), dozens of index cards covered with almost illegible notes piled in front of me, stacks of library books covering the old, 1960s Colonial print sofa, pencils sharpened, half-chewed pens at the ready, and my trusty Smith Corona manual typewriter sporting a clean, white sheet of paper. I was all set to write that ground-breaking thesis, except for one thing: my thoughts wouldn't gel. I might as well have been looking at stone tablets incised with hieroglyphics. Nothing made sense. My brain was drained.

"Maybe I will feel more inspired after a snack." I'd appease my inner muse with food to encourage her to return to work. Half a bag of chips or six cookies later, I was no closer to putting my thoughts on paper; the only thing that had been coaxed out by that culinary bribery was my waistline. Maybe I needed a nap. No, unfortunately no time for that. The report was due in the morning. Music...certainly music was well known for enhancing creativity. Luckily I had headphones for that stereo which was playing late into the night.

I am rather embarrassed to say that all my procrastination techniques were repeated quite often during my school days, resulting in papers being written at 3 am, a trend I have retained through my "mature" years, much to the annoyance of my parents, and now, my dear husband. Yet, the curious thing about those evasive tactics is that, eventually, I did write those papers, or later, sew those curtains, or make jewelry for impending craft fairs, and the results were usually better than if I had started early to plan and construct, then worked at a slower, more methodical pace. For me, the creative method that works best is one of collecting information, stewing and thinking (and to the outside world, looking like I am doing nothing) until my mental concoction has sufficiently brewed and is ready to burst forth in a flurry of activity, complete.

I would not necessarily advocate my methods for anyone but myself, of course. Your mileage will vary. However, there are a few elements commonly related to banishing dry spells that are hidden in this approach.

First, step away from the task at hand. Stop trying to force things to come together. Breathe, walk, meditate, listen to music, visit a flower garden, fold clothes, walk the dog, enjoy a cup of tea, or whatever feels right and relaxing at that moment. Don't think of this as evading what you have to do; think of it as clearing the mind in order to open the airways to receive new inspiration.

Original Print of Pink Orchids
by Beth Peardon Prods

If a short break is not enough, sleep on it. A good night's sleep allows the mind to percolate about ideas as well as to rest and rejuvenate the muses.

Perhaps a change of location will stimulate your creative juices. Try creating in a different venue, or even set up a small table outside. Move your supplies to a different room. Use an unfamiliar desk in a different room, or move your work table into a new corner. What do you see from this vantage point? If you can't move to another spot, then change your mental perspective. Really look at your surroundings with a fresh eye and note something you may not have noticed before; jot down some quick observations. Which colors stand out? What objects have you missed during your usual routine? Tilt your head to the left, then right. Do you see anything out of the ordinary? You never know what small detail, previously hidden from view, could jump start a new design or story idea.

Original Painting "Reflection" Watercolor
by The Creators Palette

Play the combination game. Without conscious planning, start putting together random materials in whatever way first comes to mind. These could be seemingly odd matches at first, but keep switching things around to see what appears. The more unusual the mixes the better, for these break old thought patterns and allow you to step outside the box in terms of creativity.

If you are a writer, then play with word sequences and associations. Open a dictionary, close your eyes, and point to a word. Open your eyes and write down what you see; repeat this process until you have a list of words from which to start a theme for a written piece. Try to write until you include all the words. Don't think too hard about this process. Just write what streams into your mind!

Old Glory Beaded Pen
by Ghi-Goo-ie Designs (JStinson)

Maybe it is time to move in a completely new direction. Try your hand at an unfamiliar craft or learn a different method within your current artistic field. Sometimes a break from the norm will re-ignite a passion for your old creative flame, but be prepared, for your crafting direction may shift to something entirely new. This new path may be a temporary diversion or it might be the beginning of a life-changing adventure into a craft which fuels your imagination much better than any previous artistic endeavors did. Don't fret if this happens. It is ok to move on if that is where your heart takes you.

Southwest Heart Treasure Box
from Jill's Treasure Chest

Most of all, be gentle with yourself when you are feeling dry. If you put pressure on yourself to perform the same every day, you will crumble under the weight of undue expectations. Plants growing during a dry spell are delicate and must be carefully and lavishly nurtured. Remember that creativity is not a steady, uniform stream, but rather an intermittent shower. Enjoy the times when inspiration is raining down, and rest when there isn't a drop of it. Go with the flow and your dry spell will eventually be quenched.


Chrissie said...

Great post, rings lots of bells with me!
Beautifully illustrated with Boomer talent, too

circleinthesand said...

Oh, excellent article. Well written with some wonderful pointers to get you past that "block". Thank you for giving us all these wonderful suggestions!!

Beth said...

Great feature Liv, Great suggestions.....thanks for using my orchids in this feature.

Dayna said...

I always did my best work up against a deadline too! Great job!

Sixsisters said...

This is terrific. I love the way you incorporated all of
the works of our team members. Thanks for including
my Three Muses painting.

Chauncey said...

A terrific post, Liv. You are not alone. :) Many of us go through the same thing from time to time. Love the way you incorporated pieces for the bbest shops.

MagdaleneJewels said...

We all get that creative block - if we didn't we would be showing our work in the Metro of Art or doing book signings! So often we are surrounded by so many distractions that you need take a break, close your eyes, and let your positive thoughts take over - you will be surprise what will emerge. Great ideas and choices to get us on the right track!

ZudaGay said...

Thank you for your post, Liv! Well done! Great ideas for a problem we all experience at times. Very appropriate illustration choices, I enjoyed reading!

Rose said...

Great ideas Liv.. loved the illustrations and as always your writing is so good!

Judy Nolan said...

It is so true that stepping away from what you're doing gives you a fresh perspective! This is a well-written post.

Jill said...

Great post. I understand about creativity and writer's block. Good advice. Thank you for using my heart box.

joon said...

Thanks for another wonderful post & for featuring my item, Liv. I only have one question...are we twins separated at birth?

Pam said...

And I thought I was the nly last-minute person on this team! I'm so glad to have company. And what an excellent piece of last-minute writing you have done! Your post is entertaining, informative, and filled with wonderful art to support your ideas. Great work!

Jean Levert Hood said...

Liv, that is what I often feel like writing a blog!! and you did a great job. I'm clicking on some new favorites!