“These divergent thinking skills, practiced and honed through years of imaginative play in childhood, lie at the heart of our creative abilities as adults.”
After only the second chapter I was already examining my own creative instincts and habits. Tharp lists the following to ponder and says that after you have:
You have cleared the first hurdle. You have begun to prepare to begin.
A few of these things have been on my mind for a while and I have been getting to a point where I can felt I could check them off the list and move on and begin.
1. My work space has always been an issue because ideally I would have an amazing loft studio space where my work could be everywhere and left out to ponder while sipping wine and cooking dinner. Well that is not my reality at the moment. So what are the elements of this that are the most important. What parts of this dream can I weave into the space I have access to now so that I can feel comfortable and supported in my creative flow? The answer: natural light, clean workspace, all my tools and supplies at hand, the freedom to leave my work out between sessions, and some time to myself without the judging eyes of others. These are all things I can find a way to make happen even in a small apartment, with a family. The creative process is not only for making art, it can also be found in the preparation to begin.
2. Tharp’s start up ritual is hailing a cab early in the morning. I need to get outside for a walk, ride or run. Yoga also works for me but I haven’t been able to get into it lately.
3. Facing down my fears…it seems what I need to do is mentally hold my breath.I guess its like putting the fears in a box. I put them on hold and focus on any bit of something that feels good. For me it is usually visual or tactile. Lately when I put my fears on hold I have been seeing an image of wood and am able to feel the sensation of the wood grain on my fingers. So I decided to work with a scrap piece of wood and am feeling content in my process with it right now.
4. Distractions…hmmm…I haven’t quite figured this one out yet, especially since I have a small child…but by continually challenging myself to keep focusing on the bits that feel good and leaving the rest behind, I find, that I can make the most of the small amount of arts time that I have.
Considering these steps has definitely helped me to get myself into a more heart-centered creative space and out of my over-thinking cycle.
I have plenty of energy and its almost one in the morning. I should be tired and I could even convince myself that I am, change into pjs and slip into my cozy bed, fall into dreamland, and start fresh in the morning. Instead I start another episode of trash TV, slipping into their world, one I wouldn’t want given the choice. But I don’t feel guilty or bad for watching it. I feel bad because at the end of the episode I am left again with the empty feeling I had when I pressed play. I see nothing wrong with a bit of television now and again but this is not for recreation. I know that I am watching because it is easy. I am watching because I am avoiding doing something scary. I am scared to MAKE. I suppose that I am worried that as soon as I sit down and begin to focus and get into my creative zone, I will fail. Of course logically I realize that creativity is about the process and blah blah blah. I totally know and believe that but fear and logic are not close friends.
There are my supplies; there is my work space; here is my time alone; there is nothing standing in my way. But I convince myself to start another show or to just go to bed. I say to myself, you’ll feel more like doing and making in the morning.
I now realize why I feel unsatisfied at the end of the day, why I can’t feel fully exhausted and ready for bed and often times feel a sense of dread for the next day. Because I know that tomorrow, the same tomorrow that I promised myself would be new and fresh, will leave me feeling the same way. This feeling wont change unless I change my pattern, unless I stop making promises to myself and breaking them.
Although…this time its different…no really…this time I am writing this blog entry. This time I am not paralyzed by fear. I am talking to the fear, noticing it, and writing it down. I am walking through it, working through it. That is something!
Process work—the type of work that our studio assignments demand—is both a blessing and a curse. Projects run through our heads and take on lives of their own, grabbing hold of us without letting go; they absorb us fully, until the rest of the world slips away. They’re fun until we see the forms we’ve been drawing on our dinner plates, the words we’ve been thinking all over our planners, and the discussions we’ve been having re-worked in our dreams. They’re satisfying until they disrupt and rush our meals, cut short our time with friends, and take our sleep. They’re thrilling until our wheels don’t stop turning.
All creative work is process work. We students in fields like art, design, and architecture know that projects spill into our everyday lives, but we never know what’s going to come from hours at our desks. One day, we might churn out fifty sketches and a hundred of lines of text, and leave the studio feeling productive and inspired, having been “in the zone.” But the next day, we might have to force our minds to run and our hands to move, because good ideas just don’t come to us, or the few that do aren’t worth keeping. The hardest times are those when nothing tangible results from the time we put in, and when we feel beat by the parameters of our assignments: to be creative on demand. On the very worst days, we’ll leave our desks wanting never to return, ready to concretize our decision to leave the field altogether; in fact, when we’re studying architecture, we won’t even want to see buildings around us—our natural tendencies to scrutinize them are exhausting. Plus, the nice ones are just reminders that someone else has done it better, and always will.
Trees are what we want. Green. Science’s natural creations.
But in the end, we come back—and we do so again and again and again. We put in eight hours of class time a week, and double, triple, or quadruple that on our own. We rip and cut and puncture and measure and wait and return later and then keep going. We glue our fingers together accidentally with double-strength adhesives, we slice through them with X-actos (also accidentally), and we sketch until we can’t anymore. We eat Bear Claws we find in the dumpster behind the bakery downstairs, go on endless walks around the block hoping they’ll clear our heads or give us inspiration or something, and we switch from model-making to drawing to writing to computering. We collaborate and support each other, and we’re happy when we see other succeed.
Our studio did and felt all of this from January through May. Sometimes, it came at a cost, requiring we sacrifice meals, sleep, friendships, and even our general sense of well-being. But it also gave us the opportunity to meet an incredible challenge: to complete a large, multi-faceted assignment in a discipline many of us hadn’t encountered before, on a scale that initially seemed too grand, and in a way that often felt uncomfortable. We met that challenge, in a place we’d never lived and with a group we hadn’t met prior to our first day of class. So to us, I raise a glass—Here’s to the completion of an incredibly difficult, but ultimately satisfying, semester of studio.