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Posts tagged ‘waiting’

Molly: Honoring Your Creativity

Molly Tinsley recently posted several comments here at Studio Mothers, and I was intrigued by her creative process. I knew you’d enjoy hearing more from this Australian, home-schooling mother of three. Enjoy!


My “studio.” I did have one in the garage, but it got engulfed when my parents moved house!

My “studio.” I did have one in the garage, but it got engulfed when my parents moved house!

I double-guessed my creative impulse for far too many years. I’ve always been “crafty”; always decorated the edges of my school notes with complex designs that were far more interesting than what I was writing down. I studied art, particularly ceramics, all the way through high school, but was told quite seriously at the age of 15 that creativity was something that I would “grow out of” and so being a good girl I shelved it away and studied to become a lawyer. (That was an absolute disaster — its own saga.)

But now, 25 years after that unhelpful advice, I find myself struggling back towards that creativity — back towards a creative life, a life in which I take my creativity seriously, in which I listen to it and honor its impulses. This is how I found Studio Mothers — looking for someone who could help me with this re-focusing while homeschooling three energetic little boys! I found the advice to do something creative every day, even if it’s just jotting down an idea on an index card, to be incredibly helpful and inspirational. I find it very hard to find and honor my creative impulse and this is a way of acknowledging this part of my life on a daily basis.

“Gum Leaf” bowl. Stoneware, underglaze and underglaze inks.

“Gum Leaf” bowl. Stoneware, underglaze, underglaze inks.

I often liken my creativity to listening for a faint sound of music on a windswept beach. I need to turn carefully to hear the thread of sound and to follow it. I’ve found that the second I try to force something — to do what I “should” — the sound dries up and I have to start at the beginning again.

Some people are born with the equivalent of full-blown marching bands: they’ve always known what they wanted to do and have never doubted their calling or their path. For the rest of us, particularly those of us who have had our creative leanings deliberately discouraged, the process is a little more tenuous. I’d like to add that that discouragement isn’t necessarily cruel. It’s simply that most people don’t understand how a living can be made from artistic pursuits, and so assume it can’t be done and try to discourage the budding artist “for their own good.”

Leonie Dawson has a wonderful, and quite different, way of describing the creative process. She calls it Riding the Wild Donkey. Actually, being Leonie, she calls it “Riding Ze Wild Donkey” and it’s a much more robust way of framing the issue than “Listening for the Windsong of the Universe.” 🙂

“Bushfire Sunset.” Acrylic on MDF.

“Bushfire Sunset.” Acrylic on MDF.

Her take is that a Wild Donkey of an idea shows up in your paddock and you jump on and ride that thing until it’s done. She has periods of intense creativity and yeehahs her way through until the project is finished, then has periods of recuperation. She calls the stuff she’s tried to do slowly “Mount Project” as it’s piled up into a heap on her desk and slowly gets bigger.

I think that the key to this approach is that you just go at it until it’s done. This may well work better with e-books and courses than with 15-foot canvases or epic photography series. In those cases, you have to find a greater depth of stamina and commitment to see the project through. Or, alternatively, you may need to find some way of chunking the project down so that you can throw yourself at each part with mad abandon.

This approach also has echoes of The Cult of Done Manifesto, which is, as it sounds, about finishing work. I don’t agree with all of it. Number 5, for example: “Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.” That wouldn’t work for me. I tend to pick things up, do them for a bit, put them down again, then pick up something else. Eventually, I work my way back around to something that I put down and finally finish it. This is where the bit about honoring my creativity comes in. The urge is to finish at all costs, but I just don’t work like that and I need to trust in my process — that I *will* circle back around to those pots and finish them; but right now I’m sticking seashells to my collage (isn’t acrylic medium AMAZING?!).

“Gum Leaf” platter. Porcelain, underglaze. ceramic inks.

“Gum Leaf” platter. Porcelain, underglaze, and ceramic inks.

I’ve also found it unbelievably annoying that the second I try to monetize my art, the creative impulse just dries up completely. I have an Etsy shop that has held the same scarves for the last year. I have a studio FULL of art that I keep putting off photographing and popping up for sale. I have a wide selection of rather cute ceramic dishes (if I do say so myself!) that have been waiting for 4 months to have their bottoms waxed and to be dipped in clear glaze and given their final firing.

I’m lucky in that my family is not dependent on my ability to make money from what I love. I have the opportunity to experiment widely both within and across genres and media. In the last year I have experimented with photography, stamp carving, reduction lino printing, ceramics, acrylic and watercolor painting, needle felting, and collage. In the past I have also experimented with papier-mâché, mosaics, garden design, acid etching, dying, and sewing.

Without a supportive partner, I’d currently be working as a librarian and checking out craft books from the library on the weekends! When I was working fulltime, I had absolutely no time or energy left for my art. Homeschooling has its own set of challenges, but I can set the boys up with paints and paper and they can splosh away while I try to get some painting or glazing done.

Actually, while I have my librarian’s hat on, I can highly recommend the book “Creating a Life Worth Living” by Carol Lloyd. It’s not a quick read, but the book is worth dipping into and out of as Lloyd covers a huge number of the issues to do with both having a creative life and paying the bills at the same time.

Needle-felted Fairy Tree with Bluebird of Happiness & Zombie Pig & Rabbit. Wool.

Needle-felted Fairy Tree with Bluebird of Happiness & Zombie Pig & Rabbit. Wool.

She’s also a great believer in daily creativity — whatever that may mean to you. I find Morning Pages a bit daunting these days, but can always find time to do a Zentangle. I also find needle-felting in the evenings while listening to documentaries (I MUST get into podcasts!) to be both relaxing and a good way to express my creativity. It’s turning to winter here in Australia and so I suspect that I will circle back around to my knitting needles and start again on the Bolero I put down last October.

Its difficult to trust in this process — to accept that its not an efficient way to get art done, but that it’s *my* way to get art done and if I don’t honor it, the desire to make art at all just dries up completely.

I’d be very interested to hear of your approaches to honoring your creativity. Do you work slowly or do you get things done fast in a fury of inspiration? Does getting paid for your art change the way you approach it? If you get paid for your art, do you approach paid and unpaid work differently? If you are a mother, how does caring for your family impact on your ability to honor your creativity? If you work, what affect does that have? We all have so many roles to play that it can sometimes be difficult to honor our creativity and still get everything else done! I’d love to hear how you do it!

Cathy: Waiting game

Finally, I got into a pretty good groove working on the manuscript. I do still seem to go in fits and starts, but at least there’s progress. I’m no longer caught up in how do I get from here…to there? Now I know what I want to see from here to there. I got past the hump of being afraid of my own voice, especially going into split personality mode in order to write for the characters. Believe it or not, I even got past the I’m not good enough/who do you think you are/who wants to hear what you have to say voice.

Now I wait when I’m not actively writing. I wait for Baby C to nap. I wait for my mother-in-law to not play a particularly noisy computer game. I wait for the boys to go find something else to do or be in school, so I don’t have to constantly field arguments or wait for the inevitable explosion if I leave them to settle it themselves. I wait for my dear S to stop “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. (- yes, S -) When I make my spaceship for K and I to travel through the galaxies in, there’s not going to be enough room for you to come too.” I wait for the dog to stop begging for attention, and I wait for no one to bug me about anything to do with the house. I wait for K to stop coming over saying, “Are you gonna be done soon, so I can check my email/write in Word/do this assignment from an online text?” for the fourth or fifth time in the past hour. I wait for Honey to come home and take Baby C and the boys elsewhere for just another thirty minutes, please.

And I wait for the inspiration I feel in my head and heart to find my fingers. That little behind the gut butterfly shows me images in my head, but isn’t ready to come out of its own chrysalis just yet. By the way, the last of those monarch caterpillars left my yard about a week after the first five. I wait for the leaves to show the first inkling of changing the season from summer to fall. I wait and realize I have never given myself this much patience before.

Kristine: Hurry Up And Wait

When I quit my job to work at home as a freelance writer, I did so with much trepidation. It was a huge risk. While we had the security of my husband’s paycheck to sustain us, the loss of my full-time salary did made a dent in our financial situation. For three months, I didn’t bring any money in. I sent out resumes and approached potential clients with the hope that something would come in. Thankfully it did. My leap of faith turned out to be the best decision I ever made in my life, and I’m grateful for every day that I’m able to do the work that I do.

I attribute my success in launching my freelance career to two things: determination and patience. The determination part was easy. My desire to work at home was so intense that I was willing to sacrifice a lot in order to get there. The patience part didn’t come so easily, and it still doesn’t.

I read a book several years ago called ROMANCING THE ORDINARY by Sarah Ban Breathnach. In fact, I liked it so much that it still resides on my bookshelf. One of the chapters has special meaning to me because it has to do with the concept of waiting, a skill I don’t perform very well. Several sentences in the chapter were particularly insightful.

Waiting is not punishment, bad karma, or lousy luck, although at any wretched moment while you are waiting it feels that way. The truth is that waiting is when the magic happens. Waiting is the mystical space between the dreaming and its coming true. Uncertainty, not waiting, is the enemy.

It seems as if I’m always waiting for something or someone. Waiting for artwork or text to come in from columnists to meet my deadline. Waiting for the doctor to call me back about my daughter’s blood work results. Waiting for the scale to move back ten pounds. Waiting for the day when I can finally declare that I’ve finished my novel.

I guess it’s true that good things come to those who wait. I mean, we all waited nine months for our darling babies to be born and look how that turned out, right? ☺

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