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Christine: Creative Frustrations

Oh, look! The kids are busy playing, the chores are done for the moment, and I don’t need to start dinner yet…I think I’ll grab a few minutes and start working on something from my sketchbook. Out I go to the workshop and I get out my tools and my materials and start working away at this idea, the one that’s been burning a hole in my brain for the past week! It’s going to be great! I can see the finished piece already!

It’s all going so well, and then….it’s not. I fumble a piece of copper coated with enamel and drop it on the floor, I smash my thumb with a hammer, and then lose the teeny tiny rivet I was trying to tap into place. I break a saw blade, and realize I cut out the wrong size shape and punched too large of a hole in it.

The errors and injuries increase and are compounded the harder I work. I know the kids are happily playing, but I know it won’t stay that way for hours, and I’m running out of time. I feel like screaming, or throwing something (always a bad idea in the workshop), and I can feel my agitation level rise.

GAH! Why does this happen? For me, any number of reasons. To begin with, one of the things I struggle with from time to time is claiming my “artist-ness”; that is, allowing myself to really believe that I am an artist, that I have talent and skill, and that what I can do really is unique. Whenever I am in a position of feeling less than confident, this old monster rears its ugly head. And I have to firmly shush it.

Another factor is usually time related. Instead of allowing myself to work without expectation and to create whatever I can in the time that is available, I push. I forge ahead, sometimes blindly, in an effort to *finish*, because I do not know how much time I really have before the kids are punching each other, or have gotten into something they aren’t supposed to, or they just plain old need me back.

And then there are the good old high expectations I have for myself. Yikes. If ever there was a club with which to beat myself, this one would be it. It takes quite a bit of effort for me to cut myself some slack from time to time.

Like being sleep-deprived and trying to create, as I talked about in my previous post, sometimes I have to remind myself that this is not a picture of things as they really are.

So, what helps? For me, walking away from the workbench completely. Going for a ride on my scooter. Watching a movie with the kids. Cooking. Going out and getting a latte. The world will not end if I don’t make a bracelet or rivet that pendant. Remembering that can be difficult for my goal-oriented, occasionally driven self. But it’s necessary, especially as I remember that I have come to my “artist-ness” because the act of creating fills a soul-deep need. So, the journey and the process is really what I’m about. And, I’ve discovered after a self-imposed period away from the workshop, I can usually either solve the problem I was having, or find a new path to a different end result. Sometimes the end result is even better than the original idea!

I think periods of creative frustration are part of the process, at least for me. It seems to move my work along at points when I need it to — when things seem stagnant, and the ideas aren’t coming to me. That pendant I was trying to rivet at the beginning of this post? It became something else entirely, and I like it even more than what I had planned.

How do you handle creative frustrations?

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. perfect – yes frustration is part of the process, i had a similar experience when i tried to rush the end of this final edit before heading out of town for last week, whenever i try to force my writing to a deadline, real or imagined, i later recall, as i posted elsewhere yesterday, i write at a turtle’s pace with a rabbit mind. ideas are constantly springing, but it takes a long time, even without the usual family and home distractions for me to spit them out, which is my greatest frustration, but when i don’t try to rush, the process is much smoother – bumps in the road are not mountain switchbacks, don’t wreck my axles, or smoke my brakes – borrowing this metaphor heavily from my camping trip. i write with speed bumps all the time, and have to remind myself to accept them.

    August 16, 2011
  2. That pendant is gorgeous!! I love the green tones with the copper, particularly since copper weathers to those colors. Worth the struggle, I’d say.

    August 16, 2011
  3. Liz #

    I can totally relate – even in those minutes they are quiet, I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop. “HURRY – GET SOMETHING DONE!… for the love of god, they’ll be in here wanting snacks any minute!” The baby isn’t crying? Well he WILL be… any second now…

    Sometimes it’s best to muscle through and sometimes it’s best to take a breather. And oftentimes I’ll choose the wrong option. I just wish I wouldn’t beat myself up about it so much.

    August 16, 2011
    • “And oftentimes I’ll choose the wrong option. I just wish I wouldn’t beat myself up about it so much.”

      Yes, Liz. Me too. 🙂

      August 16, 2011
  4. An awesome (and timely) reminder, Christine. It’s so hard to trust the process when the process feels crappy and uncomfortable! Why do we resist it so much? We should know–at least intellectually–that somehow it always turns out OK, or even better than OK (i.e., your gorgeous pendant). But in that moment, it can sometimes feel like our hands are tied and nothing good is ever going to emerge again, ever. Sigh…back to the cushion!

    August 16, 2011
  5. Excellent post. “artist-ness” I love that term! I struggle with many of the same things, but amazingly lately, I’ve really been getting much better at living in the moment and not stressing so much. As you said, the world will not come to an end if I don’t finish that bracelet. Not sure what has come over me, but it’s workin’!

    August 22, 2011
    • We should all embrace our artist-ness! I’m glad you enjoyed this post; thanks so much for your comments! 🙂

      August 22, 2011
  6. alisonwells #

    We should realise this, that panic will just take over and stop any joyful creativity but we’ve all been there, worrying about our lost time, feeling frustrated and pushing when circumstances are not right. Recently I was babysitting my sister’s kids ! overnight. Just being in another house (despite being in charge of her baby) but being away for a time from my own kids and housework that more openminded feeling came upon me and a couple of strong ideas for my novel just appeared. Akin to your scooter down time, we need to step out sometimes. Really enjoyed your post and your pendant is really fabulous.

    September 21, 2011

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