Tag Archives: creativity

Creative Play

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I’ve always been interested in the origins of creativity so I’ve done a lot of research on the subject. Most recently, I took Brent Eviston’s Becoming Creative – An Artistic Guide to Creativity on Skillshare. It was the last lesson when I had my epiphany.

Research shows that children are naturally creative but we tend to bury it as we get older. I could go on about divergent vs. convergent thinking, connotation, left vs. right brain and a bunch of other high falutin terms. But let me ask you this – what is the one thing that usually sets children apart from adults?

Play.

Play at it’s best, captured in Dublin, Ireland.

Creativity is nothing more than tapping into our powers of play. This was so obvious to me after the last video in Eviston’s class. He called it “divergent exploration”. I loved his class but when he described “divergent exploration” I thought the term was ridiculous. Why not just call it what it was – play? I mean, which sounds more fun? “Hey kids, today were going to do some divergent explorations!” or “Hey everybody, let’s play!”

Granted, it’s a more structured, intentional type of play than most kids do, but it’s still play, nonetheless.

I had another epiphany while doing a journal exercise for his class. I design and make a lot of fashion and home decorating related items but in reality, after taking both fashion and interior design classes, neither fashion nor interior design is my passion. I’m not drawn to these fields because I’m interested in them, I’m interested in the creative process inherently used in these fields.

It’s the creative process that is my passion, probably because it is play. I have fun doing it. Making things with fabric and fiber (like sweaters, hooked rugs or quilts) is just my preferred method of expressing it. And after taking Eviston’s class, even though I didn’t know the science or fancy words of what makes the creative process, I realize my creativity hasn’t been buried like most adults. I’ve been intuitively using it all along.

In a video I talked about one of my favorite tools to generate ideas – the stencil. Check out it out here if you want to learn more about it. This got me thinking about other fun ways to spark your imagination. These are not all specific to fashion, they can be used to brainstorm ideas no matter what your medium.

Mr Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head, in case you don’t remember, is a plastic potato with interchangeable parts. You could change the lips, eyes, ears, nose, etc to create a bunch of expressions or unique characters. What if you applied this concept to your design? For instance with a sweater, you could get a picture of a basic sweater and then try different types of necklines, collars, cuffs, ribbings, etc.

Cut Outs

Hooked rug with flower motifs. Paper cut outs of the different flowers helped me determine where to place them.

There are a lot of ways you can play with these. First, I used cut outs to figure out the designs for both of my hooked rugs. I knew one would be circles and the other flowers. I cut actual sizes of the motifs and moved them around on the canvas until I came up with a pattern I liked.

Second, you can cut out words and throw them in a pile and randomly pick some and write something (poem, paragraph, short story) using just those words.

Third, you can cut out pictures from a magazine. You can follow a theme (flowers) or just go with whatever catches your fancy. Once you have 5-10 pictures, play around with them. What combinations can you come up with?

Interior designers use this technique when playing around with furniture placement on a floor plan.

Roll of the Die

Take a pair of dice and assign something different to each number. If you were knitting it might look like this: roll 1 – make a bobble, roll 2 – bind off 5 stitches, roll 3 – change colors, etc. For drawing it could be 1=hash marks, 2=organic shape, 3=body part, 4=thick lines. You get the idea. Part of the fun is thinking up what each roll will be. And every time you play, you’ll create something different.

Bibliomancy

My friend Jean did a whole video on this idea. This is a fun journaling exercise but if you’re a writer you could use your notebooks and create a mismash of characters, plots, etc. If you’re an artist use your sketchbooks and see what zany combinations – whether it be color, shape or form – that you come up. News stories could create an interesting murder plot or conversation. Use a dictionary to write a poem. Use an atlas to come up with the place to set your story. Your high school yearbook could give you some interesting traits based on personalities of classmates or teachers. It would probably be the most you ever used it.

100 Day Project

The way to come up with a good idea is to have as many ideas as possible. A lot of times the first 10-20 are the mediocre, run-of-the-mill ideas. In other words, pure crap. So the challenge of creating a new idea a day (for instance, a new sweater design a day via a quick sketch) is a great way to push yourself beyond the hum-drum into the interesting.

Many of these ideas are variation on a theme and their sole purpose is to just play, the outcome isn’t important. You’re not trying to create a masterpiece. You’re looking for interesting sparks of ideas, unusual pairings and combinations and ways to disrupt your habitual thoughts.

So bust loose, have fun, connect with that inner child and just play.

6 Lessons about Creativity

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Creativity is self-expression and I’ve expressed a lot over a lifetime of knitting, sewing and generally making stuff. What lessons can I draw from all of my efforts?

Creativity works better if you make it a habit

Creativity isn’t some magical gift bestowed upon us by divine intervention. It’s a skill and like any other skill, practice makes perfect. It’s not passive, you have to take action. You learn by doing. If you want to be (more) creative, then make it a regular habit. Ask questions – “What if…?” is a good place to start.

Creativity is like a bank account

What happens if you make more withdrawals than deposits in your bank account? Eventually, you can’t take out any more money because you don’t have it. It’s the same with creativity. Burnout comes when you take too much without giving back (or replenishing it). I am SO guilty of this (I’ve done a lot of whining about this in recent posts).

You need to feed your inspiration. This means stimulating your imagination. For me it’s a two prong approach. First it’s self-care – making sure I get enough sleep, exercise, down time and proper nutrition. Second, it’s exposing myself to different things including culture, nature, people, perspectives and ideas (books, documentaries, etc).

Creativity needs constraints

A blank canvas or page is intimidating. To move past it we need to define what we want to achieve and be as specific as possible. It sounds counterintuitive but creativity works best within well-defined parameters. Designers rarely have free reign to do whatever they want.They are given a brief with specifications of the job. Unlimited options throw us into overwhelm which only creates a sudden urge to clean out the fridge and alphabetize its contents.

Comparison, judgement, and assumptions kill creativity

I didn’t do a lot of things because I wasn’t good at them. Thing is, when I first started sewing, knitting and crocheting, I wasn’t good at those either. I’m good at them now because I practiced – a lot.

Don’t compare yourself to others, especially people who have been at it longer. Talent will only get you so far. Practice can take you further.

Don’t judge your work, your only job is to do it. And if you enjoy doing it, if it gives you any measure of enjoyment, peace, relaxation, joy – whatever – who cares about the outcome? If it’s crap, chalk it up as practice. (The great thing about knitting is you can unravel your failures and no one is ever the wiser).

Don’t assume something is hard/not possible until you actually try it. Don’t assume there is only one way to do it. Don’t assume their’s a “right” or “wrong” way.

You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval

This isn’t rocket science. No one’s life is on the line. If you want to be a painter, a baker, an artist or designer you don’t need a fancy degree, permission or approval. If you paint, you’re a painter, if you write, you’re a writer, if you bake, you’re a baker, if you design, you’re a designer. You get to decide.

Creativity isn’t just for those in arts and design

As human beings, creativity is our birthright, not just for the chosen few. We express our creativity everyday by how we parent, dress ourselves, decorate our homes, cook a meal, solve a myriad of everyday problems, deal with customers, show our love or organize a spreadsheet (though “creative” accounting is frowned upon…), just to name a few. Creativity enriches our lives and you don’t have to be an “artist” to be creative.

Future Projects

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Work is busy. I’m buried in emails and constantly juggling resources so by the time I clock out I have little energy for anything else. But over the weekend I did manage to FINALLY get some clarity and I feel my creative mojo coming back. With my job being what I can only describe as organized chaos, it’s nice to come home to my projects, even if I’m not burning through them as quickly as I was a year or even 6 months ago.

Last winter I concentrated on home decorating projects – specifically dressing up my bedroom with a new quilt, pillows and art work. There are still a few projects I have planned for that room that I haven’t gotten around to – more pillows, a new lamp shade and possibly some sort of valance. I’m on the fence about the valance but it would be nice to have something a bit prettier than the generic window blind header. I haven’t found the right thing yet so it might just stay as is.

The lampshade is definitely on my project bucket list though. I found several pretty embroidered shades that I liked. I also inherited a bunch of old 35mm slides from my mother. I mean, what do you do with these things except look for the one that supposedly has the ghost in it. I don’t want to throw them out because that’s an environmental hazard. So do I let them sit around in its box, taking up space in my apartment? To resolve this dilemma I want to the Holy Grail of ideas – Pinterest. Turns out slides make excellent lamp shades. I really liked this idea and found this. I’ll need a different lamp base but Goodwill has plenty.

How cool would it be to modernize this with a funky shade made from 35mm slides? Imagine how the slides would be illuminated on the walls!

The real project I want to tackle is my living/dining room. This is basically one big rectangle and is more of a book nook/sewing room at the moment. I have a huge leather chair/ottoman, a couple of dressers and my sewing machine. I want it a bit more inviting to guests as I want to entertain – a lot. Since it’s not safe to do it now, this is the perfect time to prepare for it. I have the layout in my head and know how to delineate the space.

A dining room table and chairs is a necessity. I would call my decorating style eclectic. I like a mix of metal and wood, color and pattern. My ideal table would have a rough wooden, farmhouse vibe with a steel base/legs. These tables are expensive and I don’t have the budget right now to buy new/custom made furniture. Money aside, second hand is just better. Cheap Ikea and Ikea rip-offs aside, you can find better quality. It’s better for the environment AND, for the most part, it’s already off-gassed the dangerous chemicals.

Another issue is size. I have room for a table but not a lot. It needs to be rectangular – specifically about 67-68″ long by 30-32″ wide. Custom tables do not come cheap, unless you make it yourself. I have two basic wooden bar stools that I found (i.e. free). The beauty of living in an apartment complex is coming across perfectly good stuff that people throw away (I didn’t dumpster dive, they were sitting next to the dumpster).

I rarely use them as stools, they mostly act as plant stands or hold my laptop when I watch YouTube or Netflix (I don’t own a TV). As I was looking at Pinterest for ideas on making a sofa, I eyed my barstools and it occurred to me they could be the base for a dining room table. All I’d need to do would be make a table top and if I could make it so the barstools could be easily detached, it would not only make it easier to transport but I could break the table down if I needed the space for something else. Now all I have to do is barter with a friend who has the space and power tools to help me make it.

Chairs will be a bit easier. I don’t want them to match and thrift stores or FB marketplace has a lot of odd ones I can pick up cheap, paint and reupholster.

While I am working on gathering the furniture, there are a lot of things I can work on now – table decorations such as napkins and tablecloths and sourceing dessert plates, pasta and salad bowls and serving pieces at thrift stores. Napkins are an oddly satisfying thing to sew as it’s just a big square with mitered corners. There’s more ironing than sewing. I want mine in a mix of colors and patterns with a lacy, crochet border.

Also, I will need a large scale art piece to anchor the space and define it as the “dining” room – I’m thinking a quilt. I love Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s graphic style but I’m not opposed something a bit more realistic – something with flowers – in the style of Ruth B. McDowell. Figuring out a design that I can use the fabrics I have will be the biggest challenge but it will be a fun quilt to make.

Living room furniture will be pretty straightfoward – a loveseat, coffee table (with storage) two side chairs and a small table to put between them. One of my dressers, which is used as fabric storage right now, I will either donate or stick in my closet. The other will remain. Again, I’m hoping to find all of this secondhand. It needs to to be on a smaller scale also as the room is not that big.

This is the layout I’m going for (imagine your are sitting on the couch facing the fireplace, except I don’t have a fireplace). I want something that invites conversation.

I am toying with the idea of turning my big leather chair into a couch. I think all I would have to do is remove the upholstery and cut the frame in half and extend it. I’d also narrow the arms. I’m sure it can be done but I wouldn’t know exactly what I was getting into until I ripped it apart. I’m trying to find YouTube videos on sofa frames so I can see what this project would entail but I’m not having much luck – they show reupholstery but I want to see more of what the frame looks like. Another issue is where would I do all of this? In my living room? It would probably be more work than it was worth and buying something secondhand would save me time and money in the long run. But I’m still thinking about it.

The big question is where will I put my sewing machine. I think I can keep it in the room. It’s in a cabinet so I can close everything up and it looks like a piece of furniture though a dated piece. It has white melamine cabinet doors that I’d love to paint.

Or I can stick it in my bedroom where my makeshift desk currently is. If the sewing cabinet is all closed up and the machine tucked away, I could use it as a desk and kill two birds with one stone. The dining room table could also serve as a desk. I have options.

I don’t see work easing up anytime soon and after moving tons of boxes in 90 degree heat, I fell asleep about 8 pm last night. It was a hard, I’m-totally-spent, dead-to-the-world kind of sleep, too. I woke up disoriented, not sure where I was, or what time it was. I am productive at work, no doubt, but it’s requiring intense mental and sometimes, physical energy, leaving me little for when I’m home. Having a plan in place, a big project in mind, is feeding my motivation. I have an assortment of tasks so depending on how much energy I have, I can take on a no-brainer (napkings) or charge forward with building a table or designing an art piece.

I needed a vision with it’s related projects like this to help ease the stress of everything else that is going on in my world.

What do you do to recharge?

A Passion for Purple

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I’ve been curating a new wardrobe for myself. Right now I am focusing on casual summer tops to wear with shorts. All I have are tank tops and a couple of $5 t-shirts I got on sale at Michael’s. Functional, yes, but not really stylish nor necessarily the coolest thing for hot Texas summers.

I went to a couple of thrift stores (I pledged to only buy my clothes secondhand. The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters and I don’t want to contribute to it anymore. There are more than enough used options around, at least if the thrift stores in my area are any indication). Since I wasn’t able to try anything on, I did get a couple I’m not totally in love with but for the most part, I found some real gems. And a pattern emerged. The majority of stuff I bought had a definite bohemian vibe – Indian-like prints and embroidery. No big surprise there. Also, there were a lot of blues and purples.

I love color. I have always been attracted to it yet haven’t had a lot of it in my wardrobe. Maybe because black and grey were just an easy option. I have another theory though. My wardrobe and it’s lack of cohesion, color or style has been an outer manifestation of an inner confict. How could I possibly develop a personal style when I was flip-flopping around, trying to be what everyone else expected me to be? If I didn’t know who I was how could I dress her? Only now that I am learning to listen to and trust my authentic self have I been able to see my true style emerge.

And purple in all of it’s glorious forms, is definitely on the menu!

What is Color?

I’m not going to pretend to understand how color works optically (apparently it has something to do with how different wavelengths of colored light combine and how cones in our eyes percieve it or something like that) but I do know from elementary art class that purple is a mixture of red and blue. Mix in more red than blue and you get purple. Mix in more blue than red and you get violet. This analogous color scheme (red, purple and blue) is my favorite so it’s no wonder that I now have quite a collection of it in my wardrobe. (I would extend that range to teal blues also. Not only do I love these jewel tones, they look good on me.)

Purple Dyes

The color purple as a dye has an interesting history. Apparently purple is rare in the nature (though it doesn’t seem like it thanks to having everything at our fingertips these days). Even if we don’t live in an area where lilacs, grapes or eggplant are indiginous, we still know what they are.

The color purple as a dye has been around since biblical times. The most important dye originally came from what is now known as Lebanon. It was extracted from a snail – mucus of a snail to be exact (the history of dying is quite fascinating and also a little gross – maybe it’s the grossness that makes it fascinating…) which had to be dried out in the sun for a particular amount of time to get the right hue. The reason purple is considered the color of royalty was because it took about 250,000 of these snails to produce one ounce of dye, making it extremely expensive but the color was deep and long lasting. If you wanted to display your wealth, wearing purple spoke volumes.

There were other natural sources for purple including purple moss, blackberries and mulberries but these created colors more on the red side and weren’t as colorfast.

Synthetic purple dye didn’t become prevalent until the mid 1800’s when William Henry Perkin, who was trying to produce synthetic quinine, created the first aniline dye instead. It was known as mauveine and shortened to mauve. He took full advantage of this discovery, set up a factory and it became readily available (i.e. affordable) to the masses.

Meaning of Purple

I’m a sucker for symbolism so naturally I’m interested in what meaning people have attached to the color purple. According to the website Color Matters :

purple symbolizes magic, mystery, spirituality, the sub-conscious, creativity, dignity, royalty – and it evokes all of these meanings more so than any other color.

I find the link to royalty rather interesting given my life archetype is The Empress. (I’m a sucker for these type of personality quizzes. And whether or not you believe any of it, I strongly identify with everything about my archetype.) While it doesn’t state a particular color, purple is definitely an empress color.

Am I drawn to purple because it is such a rare color? That it evokes “deep mystery? Because of its “royal” heritage? Or because my skin tone has a reddish undertone so the coolness of purple keeps me from looking like a beet?

I confess the idea of being mysterious and rare does sound better than being an outcast and weird, which is kind of how I felt my whole life. Being a little older and wiser, I’m no longer concerned about fitting in. Actually I’m okay with being weird. What’s the other option – normal? When I was younger I did everything I could to be like everyone else – to be accepted – but now that sounds so…boring. And life is so much easier and enjoyable embracing my weirdness instead of trying to hide or erase it, like it was something to be shameful of.

So yeah, color me purple.

Organizing my Stash…Again

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My knitting has been on the back burner these days. Mainly because I started the Lace Cardigan from The Art of Seamless Knitting by Simona Merchant-Dest and Faina Goberstein. It’s a top down cardigan and a bit fiddly as it requires a lot of concentration. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be gorgeous when it’s done but I was about 45 rows into the pattern when I realized my gauge was wrong and it wasn’t going to fit (even though I had done a gauge swatch). I ripped it out and started over but it’s been slow. I still haven’t made it back up to row 45. Between having to get up early to run (to beat the heat) and going back into an office again, my brain has been kind of fried and doesn’t want to deal with all the yarn overs, SSK, etc. I mean, I’ve been under lock down for over a year and realized my social skills are a bit rusty. It’s been taxing.

I want a no-brainer knitting project. So naturally I decided to pull out all of my yarn and organize it. Totally reasonable response, right?

This is not the first time I’ve done this. However, it is the first time I decided to put it ALL down on paper (well, in a Google spreadsheet, so technically not paper…). I have managed to use up some of my stash the past year and it’s been shifted around where most of it now fits in my linen cabinet. The problem is it’s not easy to see all of it – out of sight, out of mind. Here’s where the beauty of the spreadsheet comes in.

The columns in the spreadsheet are labeled: Brand of Yarn, Color, Fiber Content, Amount (# of skeins as well as the grams or yardage of each skein), Recommended Needle Size and Project Ideas (as vague as “hat” or actual links to patterns). And the first column has an actual picture of the yarn. Not all my yarn has labels but I fill in what I can.

The spreadsheet is a good idea for several reasons:

  • I can see what I have without dragging everything out of the closet.
  • I can add in ideas for different yarns as I find them. Having brand names on hand also allows me to go into Ravelry and look for projects made with that specific yarn, even if the yarn is no longer being manufactured.
  • I can look for yarns to pair up. This is especially useful since I have so many odds and ends.
  • It got me thinking about what to do with all my odds and ends. Given that I already have 50 yarns listed and I’m not done, not everything I knit needs to be for me. I thought it would be nice to use some of my yarn for gifts and charity. I’d like to have a stock of handknits around to surprise friends and family with. I’m thinking of “one-size-fits-all” kind of projects – hats, scarves, socks, mittens – that sort of thing. These are also perfect “no-brainer” projects.
  • It’s a reminder of how blessed I am. It may sound corny but what made the last year so bearable was my knitting and sewing. And how wonderful was it that all I had to do was open a drawer or a cabinet to find a bounty of materials to pick from.
  • It gives me one place to capture all of my ideas.
  • Creativity has a stereotype of being messy and chaotic but it needs constraints. Organizing my stash into a document and being able to see everything all at once activates “what if” thinking. What if I combined different weight yarns? What if I tied all the small leftovers together to create a Frankenball? What if I combine different textures? How would that effect the stitch pattern? What if I combined knitting with crochet? Crochet with sewing? What if I worked in patchwork? What if I added leather? These questions get my juices flowing and are the basis for some really unique and interesting design.

It may not seem like I got a lot accomplished this week but I laid the foundation and set myself up for success with future projects. Whether I need to take on a more challenging project or just need something keep my hands busy, my spreadsheet will be there with all of its possibiities.

The Creative Wasteland

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Image by Marion

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re on a roll, inspiration is coming at you left and right, projects are just flowing through your hands at an incredible rate of speed and all of a sudden, the train goes off the tracks,

This is where I am at. It’s frustrating not having a project. Okay, I have tons of projects and ideas, the real frustration is nothing is exciting me at the moment. My stash feels stale. I want color! Pattern! Texture! Yet everything feels somber, derivative and unimaginative. Not everything has to be a wow factor but I can’t seem to find even find a spark to get me going.

Over the holiday weekend I finished a project – a basic top made out of leftover yarn to wear with a lace cardigan I knit last year (essentially creating a twin set). Nothing exciting or complicated, just something to keep my hands busy.

When I finished that I dragged out yarns and fabric, looking for something to call to me.

I leafed through stitch guides hoping one would jumpstart an idea.

I watched YouTube, scrolled through Instagram and Pinterest, looked through books and I came up dry.

I almost had an idea when I found a pillow form. If nothing else, at least it would give me something to do (like I don’t already have six unfinished projects I could whittle away at…). I played around with some yarn, found a stitch pattern I liked and started. Then a better idea came to me so I abandoned that pattern for another. I almost finished that one when I realized it wouldn’t work for what I had in mind. I thought I’d sleep on it and start fresh in the morning.

Sleep, however, alluded me. I had questions, “What about the red sweater I started knitting about a month ago?” I was avoiding it because I had the sneaking suspicion it was too small (even though I did a gauge swatch). Using my insomnia to my advantage and measured it. If I was going to have to rip it out, better to do it now, when I only have 4 inches on the needle than when it was finished. My instincts were right. It was be too small. So at god-knows-what-hour of the night, I unraveled it. While I was at it, I unraveled the pillow also. My mind a little bit more at ease, at least I was able to fall asleep.

These episodes are not the exception, they are part of the process. Productivity, creativity – these come in ebbs and flows, much like life. I’ve learned to ride them out. Doesn’t mean I like them. But for the most part, these creative dry spells mean I need to recharge, take a break, relax. Something I’m not prone to do.

Other creatives will tell you if you develop a creative “habit” you can avoid these. Show up for the page, don’t wait for inspiration to strike, etc. but I bet even if you commit to working on your craft on a daily basis, some days will be more productive than others. They may be fewer and farther between but I don’t think anybody escapes that.

So what’s the trick to get through this?

Netflix.

Just kidding,

Or am I?

I think the broader answer is to just let go. I have a tendency to push my way through this period, trying to force something to come. I haven’t had much success with that method. But once I give in and let go, it isn’t long before an idea pops in my head, a spark is ignited and I’m off again.

Maybe it’s these unproductive moments, when I begin searching desperately for a new project, that feed my creativity at that subconscious level. I’m bombarding it with images and half-baked ideas and it gets to work sorting it all out. I don’t know. What I do know is inspiration will come and like a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly, an idea will emerge.

And the process will begin again.

A New Design – A Look at my Creative Process

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A new video is up. One day when we are allowed back out into the world to do more than just get gas and groceries, I want to go to more theatrical and artsy events but I haven’t got a thing to wear. So I decided to design something and wouldn’t you know, I’ve got just what I need in my stash.

100 Day Project

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Finding the essence of our creativity in the things that bring us wonder and joy.

I have found the wonderful world of Andy J. Pizza. As he would say, not that’s not his real name, but who cares? I first found him on Skillshare (a lovely Christmas gift from my son) and then found his podcast, Creative Pep Talk. I’m a huge fan of Skillshare and Andy, so please check them both out.

Taking all of his classes and listening to a couple of podcasts got me motivated but it also brought up a lot of baggage. Can I really call myself creative when I’m just making other people’s design? Why do I keep avoiding doing the work? A familiar feeling of fraud crept in and my negative inner voice leapt at the chance to push my buttons. “I’m not good enough. I don’t have what it takes.” Blah, blah, blah.

On the one hand, it’s demoralizing and makes me want to say “who am I fooling?” and give up. On the other, Andy believes it’s not talent, skills or putting in 10,000 hours of practice that makes someone successful. What sets us all apart is “good taste” or our creative intuition. For example, a good musician isn’t necessarily the person who is technically skilled, it’s the person with a good ear, which is why after 5 years of piano lessons, I still sucked. In Episode 294 he talks about our essence vs. persona. He defines essence as our automatic behaviors (I think this is where our “good taste” resides) and persona as trying to be someone your not. It’s who you think you need to be in order to be worthy of love. That line hit me like a ton of bricks.

My problem isn’t that I lack talent or skill. It’s not that I’m not good enough or don’t have what it takes. At the heart of the matter is this belief that my persona – the person I thought I was supposed to be – is “right” and my essence – my authentic self – is “wrong”. This lead to a plethora of problems including waiting for other people’s permission to do the things I love. How screwed up is that?

I was already conscious of this, though Andy’s explanation gave it a different spin. You don’t spend decades of living with these beliefs (and stupid made-up rules) only to be free once you become aware of them. They’re ingrained into our subconscious and operate on automatic pilot. It’s not an easy habit of thought to change. It requires diligent effort to recognize them and challenge their validity when they pop up. And just when you think you made progress, you discover you’ve only scratched the surface. It’s like an onion – there are many layers and it shows up in ways/situations you never imagined.

Another stumbling block has been my perfectionism. Perfectionism is a product of a fixed (versus growth) mindset. It traps people into thinking they’re only as good as their results, where a growth mindset praises people for effort. As a result, people who have done well, say in school, tend to stay within their wheelhouse instead of trying something new for fear of looking foolish/stupid/incompetent, etc. Perfectionists identify with results so if something doesn’t go well, they see it as a personal flaw (I am a failure). A person with a growth mindset doesn’t identify with the outcome (that was a failure), they see it as a learning opportunity (what can I do differently?). A fixed mindset tends to make people freeze because their ego is so wrapped up in the results. A growth mindset keeps the person detached, allowing them to explore options. It may be a one step forward, two steps back progression but at least there’s a progression. You can see how this could affect creativity, which by it’s very nature means experimentation, mistakes and failure.

I’m still trying to untangle myself from these self-limiting beliefs and can see how I am playing it safe with many of my projects, skating on the surface of my creativity instead of doing a deep dive. This is where having a creative practice comes in – things like artist dates (introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way). It’s not so much about what you do (though it should be fun). It’s just showing up and doing the work.

This lead me down the rabbit hole and in my queue was the class The Perfect 100 Day Project: Your Guide to Explosive Creative Growth by Rich Armstrong. The 100 Day Project has an official website (it started January 31) if you want to be a part of a larger group but it’s not necessary. It struck me as a good place to start as it encompassed many of the things I hope my creative practice will achieve:

  • Dive deeper into my creativity by showing up and doing the work everyday .
  • Shift into a growth mindset – it’s not about results, it’s about doing.
  • Desensitize myself from having to do things perfectly by sharing my work – the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Clear out my “persona” to make room for my essence – those beautiful, unique, quirky, weird qualities that make me who I am and bring me joy.
  • Work intuitively rather than overthinking things by keeping it between 5-15 minutes a day.
  • Define my personal visual language.

I’ve chosen to draw a sweater a day for my first 100 Day Project and I’ll be sharing it on my Facebook page as well as creating a separate page here (probably on a weekly basis).

I truly believe we all have unique gifts – our distinct take or perspective on life and things we are passionate about – that is different from everyone else. It’s the things that make us tick and come alive. Too often we dismiss or bury them instead of letting them shine because we feel we have to be like everyone else. As Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else.”

And whatever that gift or “good taste” is or relates to – parenting, teaching, coding, math, sports, fashion, cars, video games, animals, etc – it’s all a creative calling. If you’ve been fortunate, you’ve had people support you in it. If like most of us, you haven’t, I hope sharing my journey helps others let go of judgement, comparison and question their beliefs (do they help or hinder you?) to reconnect to their essence.

As Andy said “When you are playing into your essence, you don’t need feedback. Our internal joy tells us it’s good”.

Firing Up My Imagination

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I was a productivity Ninja in December. I was making all the things but it came to a screeching halt mid-January.

What the hell happened?

I go in cycles – bursts of incredible activity followed by frustrating periods of creative angst. Right now I’m in the creative angst phase. I have plenty of no-brainer projects to keep my hands busy. And while great for binging on Netflix, they aren’t satisfying my creative spirit and she is getting antsy.

In this YouTube video, I talked about using my odd skeins of yarn to make a freeform garment but said I was still in the preliminary stages. Honestly, I’m just stuck. It’s the feeling I get after I’ve finished a project but having nothing in the queue. It’s like when you start a jigsaw puzzle and just dumped all the pieces onto the table. It’s a big mess and you have to turn up all the pieces and find the edges (that’s how you do it, right?) I have all sorts of bits and pieces of ideas floating around in my head but nothing is coming together yet.

When I have an idea, I’m laser focused and motivated. I’m excited to work on it to see how it turns out. But when I’m done, I feel lost. I built up this momentum and invested so much energy in that project only to find myself with no place to direct it when it’s done. I have to start all over at square one and it’s mentally exhausting. Having a reservoir of ideas on hand is what Julia Cameron calls “filling the well” in her book The Artist’s Way. How do I make sure my “well” is always stocked?

I took a step back to see what I’ve done in the past. My loose process goes something like this:

One of my journals with collages of things that inspire me.
  • Find a starting point. This could be anything from a yarn I want to use, a particular garment I want to make or a technique I want to try. I might be inspired by a color scheme or a theme such as flowers. If I am drawing a blank, I might go look at my journals, Pinterest or Google to see if something catches my attention. There are unlimited possibilities and at this point I need to find something to focus on.
  • Play – I initially called this the “question/research” phase but all I’m doing is playing around as I try to narrow down my project further. Besides, “question/research” phase sounds soooo boring and uninspiring. I ask myself questions. If I want to make a cardigan I may ask: What silhouette do I want? What about other details such as collar, cuffs, button band (or do I want it zippered?) How long should it be? What stitch pattern do I want to use? What yarn? How do I want to construct it? To answer these questions may require further research such as going through my stitch dictionaries. It’s also a time to play “what if…?” What if I added this or changed that?
  • Refine – Based on the decisions I’ve made, I start planning out the project. It’s at this stage I’ll figure out my gauge, needles size, etc. and write out my pattern.
  • Execute – I’ve got an idea and a plan, now all I have to do is make it.

The weak link in this process, disappointingly, is “play” and where I want to direct my attention. It’s the heart of my creative process. If I up my “play game”, it would spill over into “finding a starting point” and keep my reservoir filled.

Playing around with ideas in another journal

I’ve been holding back though, following stupid, made-up “rules” about how I’m “suppose” to play (I’ve been uncovering a lot of these internalized “rules” lately), which has resulted in mediocre and stale design. There’s a huge disconnect between the design I love (collage, embellishment, color, texture) and what I produce. It’s time to believe in magic again – to reconnect with my inner child, let loose, not give a shit about results or outcomes (or other people’s opinions), challenge assumptions and rules like a petulant child, be ridiculous, make a big, glittery mess and reclaim my sense of awe and wonder.

Excuse my while I look for my tutu and fairy wings – it’s time to visit Never Never Land.