Sometimes life is a rabid wood chipper chewing you up and spitting you out the other side.
Okay, that was a bit extreme. But you get it. Life can get messy and manic and leave you blinking, wondering where all your time went.
This month has been insanity on a plate. A 102.5 degree plate. That’s the same temp as my kiddo’s fever. Bleayah. The flu paid us a visit. Thankfully, I only had the roll of nurse this time around, and not patient. Regardless, looking after my daughter while holding down the fort has been exhausting.
I have a lot of compassion for people trying to pursue creative dreams on top of their everyday responsibilities (jobs, families, bills, recovering from the flu, etc.).
How can we nourish our creativity when we’re running from one responsibility to the next?
Here are few things that have been working for me over the last couple of weeks. Most of them easily fit into everyday life. Some take extra time and effort. All of them require mindfulness, instead of letting life carry us along.
When life gets hectic, feed your spirit with…
Almost every creative I know holds music dear. For some it’s screaming guitars, for others concert piano. Music is soul food. It has a profound effect on me, and I’m guessing it does you as well. There are songs that can set my writing brain into overdrive. and there are artists I can’t listen to without plunging into a deep pit. I’ve learned that when life gets hectic, I need to be aware of what music I’m listening to and the effect it’s having on me. Whether it’s in the car or at home, too much time with the wrong music, and I’m likely to crawl into a corner and cry. No, when life gets hard, I keep the music inspiring, hopeful, beautiful. It feeds my soul, gives me energy, keeps me going.
Every spring, the Phoenix Art Museum puts on a special event for one weekend only. Arts & Flowers. It’s a beautiful, museum-wide exhibit in which local florists create arrangements in response to particular pieces of art. I’ve made a point of attending the event for a few years now, and every year I am pleasantly surprised by the florists’ creations. They are sumptuous. They make me see familiar paintings with new eyes. But most of all, the event is beautiful. And beauty, like music, feeds my creativity. If you’re feeling down or dried up, surround yourself with beauty — buy yourself flowers, visit a museum, watch the sunset — and see if your spirit isn’t rejuvenated.
3. New Experiences
Sometimes we just get stale. Day after day, the same thing, the same routine, over and over and ugh. When that feeling sets in, I know it’s time to mix it up. Try something new. This month, it was pottery. A friend and I had bought a Groupon a while back for a wheel pottery class, and the timing of the class couldn’t have been more perfect. I spent two hours out of my normal routine, getting my hands dirty and expanding my creative horizons. A perfect remedy for stagnant creativity.
Daydreaming leads to creative breakthroughs. That next scene. That new painting. That shiny invention. But who has time for daydreaming when life gets crazy? You do, of course. And I do, too. Waiting at the grocery store or preschool pick up line. Stopped in rush hour traffic. It doesn’t take a lot of time, it just takes a little redirecting of your thoughts. The best thing about daydreaming, I’ve found, is that it allows me to keep my writing brain going while I’m away from the page. I’m driving my kids to school, but I’m also noodling on that new scene, visualizing it in such detail that when I get back to my desk, it’s there waiting for me to write. Daydreaming: free, fun and necessary for your creativity.
5. Good Food
We’ve been undergoing a food revolution in our house. It started with the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Since then, our family has been cutting out processed food and replacing it with fresh fruit and veggies. We even cut out coffee. *gasp* I know! But I feel great! No more blood sugar rollercoasters. No more afternoon lull. Finally, I understand the concept of garbage in/garbage out. I feel better — I feel more creative — when I’m feeding my body good things.
My dogs teach me so much about joy. This morning I watched Hannah roll around in the grass, her mouth open and the sun shining down on her. Pure joy. Best five minutes of my day. And Hobbes wiggles every time he sees me. Wiggles! Who else but your dog greets you in such a way? My dogs remind me what it means to be alive and to be joyful. And I’m grateful for them. Joy is such an important part of the creative process. There is joy in the spark of an idea. There is joy in the creating. There is so much joy when you stand back and see what you’ve made. One thing life is really good at is robbing us of our joy. Sometimes it takes simple things — like rolling in the grass and sunshine — to remember what it means to be joyful, to be creative, to be alive.
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”
I wanted to write this post close on the heels of the last, as they’re somewhat related.
The other night I was working with PMC clay, making silver pendants to give as gifts. My ideas for the designs felt stilted. My hands fumbled. The clay dried and cracked and grew difficult to work. At one point, The Chairman of the Borg asked how my work was coming along.
“Awful,” I said. “These totally suck.”
He rolled his eyes. “You always say that. ‘Oh, these are ugly, these are horrible, I hate these.’ Then when it’s all done, you step back and say,” — and here he flourished his arms in dramatic circles — “‘Oh look, I made a swaaaaan.”
I laughed. But I also thought, Nah, these really do suck.
Still I went back to work. I finished sculpting the pendants. I fired them. I burnished them to a high sheen. Then I dunked them in a bath of liver of sulfur and waited.
When I pulled them out, they were black and the designs carved into them unrecognizable. They were ugly. Really ugly.
I rinsed them and went to task buffing the black to silver again, leaving the black in the recessed areas of the designs.
When I’d finished I evaluated my work. I hadn’t made a swan, but the pendants had turned out a lot better than I’d anticipated.
I could go into a spiel about caterpillars becoming butterflies. Or iron hammered and shaped into chandeliers. Or winter blossoming into spring.
But I won’t.
I’ll just say this: often in creative work, the thing you’re working on has to get ugly — really ugly — before it turns beautiful. Don’t give up on the piece in its ugly phase. Rather, acknowledge the ugliness as part of its journey. Stay faithful to the piece. See it through to it’s conclusion. It may not always match the original idea you had for it; but odds are it’ll be better than you anticipated.