Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Slow Learner?

I've learned this about my personal creative process: I can think and think and think, look and look, and try for hours, days, or weeks to come up with an idea. But until my body actually becomes engaged in the process and I begin to draw, paint, cut, or sew, nothing but frustration will come about.

I've learned that, but I always manage to forget it at the most crucial times.

So I've spent the last couple of days thinking and looking and become increasingly desperate for a creative idea, then trying to console myself with the idea that this is January, after all, the season of rest and lull and creative-battery-recharging, then resigning myself to the fact that I'm just not that creative and will never have another idea again.

Then I repeat the process all over again.

This morning I decided just to draw something--anything--as a way to begin. Of course, I couldn't think of anything to draw, so I pulled out a quilting book and began to draw one of the landscapes featured in it. I knew I might want to create a journal quilt for January, so I thought as I sketched about what January trees might look like, what color values might be important, what January feels like.

When I finished sketching I knew I wasn't particularly excited about actually creating this piece, and my tiny trollish inner critic immediately started jumping up and down and screaming "it's not your design! it doesn't mean anything to you! You'll just screw it up anyway and it will look ugly and then you'll hate it! Besides, you can't even DRAW." "Nevertheless," I calmly responded, and proceeded to scan the sketch into my computer (this is one of my favorite responses to the troll, and one that I read about a couple of years ago--I wish I could remember where, but you know how that goes . . . "Nevertheless, I'm going to try it anyway"; "Nevertheless, I'm going to just draw this tree and see what happens"; etc.).

As the scanner was doing its part, I thought about what I liked about the sketch, and I settled on the trees. One very tentative idea pushed its way in, then another, then suddenly ideas were flooding into my head. "What if I drew just the trees . . .what if I painted the trees onto fabric . . . no, I know! What if I drew them with crayons onto paper and then transferred that onto fabric . . ." and I was off and running. Before I knew it, I was playing with fabric and crayons and ironing and pulling out those little batik squares I bought because I loved the browns and grays and whites, and just in general having a great time.

So once again, I'm reminded of this lesson I'm apparently destined to have to learn and relearn over and over again: the brain thinks it can work in isolation, but it can't create without the body.


Quilt Pixie said...

your "nevertheless" is a great way to deal with an inner critic! Thanks for the idea....

I love how you just have to figure out what nudges the creative door open and then one's muse is just so full of energy there's this whirlwind...

The Idaho Beauty said...

If you're a slow learner, you're in good company! I'm constantly having to relearn the little gems I stumble upon. I've taken to writing some of them down and posting them by my sewing machine as a reminder.

Thanks for the comment on my blog. Had to run over here and see what you're all about. Enjoy your observations and quilting. The bird came out nicely - I had to chuckle because I too have things I put up on my design wall that wait sometimes years for me to figure out how they should be finished.