Gosh… recently life has been a whirlwind.The more I think if it the more I can compare myself to poor old Dorothy ( but please no, not the pig tails and cute dress) ! Life has been my tornado spinning me round and round and finally depositing me somewhat bemused at the start of a journey down my equivalent to the yellow brick road. I have stared off with a purpose and met friends along the way… You get the picture I imagine. Well, there I go skipping merrily along until part way in I run out of the initial excitement that has propelled me thus far. What do I do?
I have two choices:
- Return to my default habits, convince myself that my dreams are unrealistic and stop
- Find strategies to carry on, fight my doubts and lack of self belief and hang in there until the moment passes. Then I can carry on making myself happy and fulfilled doing what I love best- dwelling in possibility!
As I am still posting I hope it is obvious which choice I made!
During a conversation with my husband yesterday I was reminded again that nothing beats quality time absorbing creativity from what is around. Just to ‘be’ and let it all wash over me. As we spent time talking in the carparks of a well known fast food chain this stunning animal emerged tentatively from a bush. We were surprised by its boldness and calm demeanour. Mr fox was definitely in charge of the moment as he stared straight at us before trotting off unperturbed.
Nature was once again leaving its unique mark on me. The fleeting few seconds when that beautiful creature locked its’ searching eyes on us was quite magical. It remains with me as a kind of visual soothing medicine. Much as I crave painting and writing, for me it is not the outcome that I value as much as the process to get there. Some times the thought process takes priority over painting especially during times of low energy. I have read that creative energy peaks and ebbs sometimes for many reasons. For me it is important to listen to this, respect it and just be, perhaps practice mindfulness or concentrate on experiencing nature around me until I feel recharged. What in the end recharges me? There is no telling. It could be rest, time, poetry or indeed a passing fox taking me back to rejoin the journey just like Dorothy on her way to find the wizard of Oz.
Many people describe life as an emotional roller coaster. I certainly do and for the past few weeks I have been fortunate enough to have felt at a high point on my artistic ride. You know, the all -consuming passion and total commitment that makes you want to complete a project to the exclusion of most other things. Imagine if that was permanent- one could run right out of food and perhaps become a little unpopular! So fortunate for me my creative ‘highs’ don’t last for ever. The laws of gravity kick in- what goes up must come down.
However this really is no bad thing. The more I encounter emotional energy the more I think that if creative life continued on the same level all of the time I would never experience the view from the glorious peaks I encounter after climbing out of a low on my journey? Every time I lose inspiration it frustrates me but perhaps it need not. I have already blogged about my brain needing time to process new ideas – perhaps this processing is what happens in the troughs. ( Shameful admission for a female – I don’t creatively multitask!) I used to consider these as unproductive and wasted times but actually they are allowing my brain time to catch up and consolidate insights, styles, use of colour or whatever I have just learned on my high time. I have to consider this as ‘out time’.After all I suppose the household tasks occasionally need to be caught up on…!?
‘ Tell me now how does it feel?‘ *
Ok, yes, I have completely changed the context in which the question is asked in the song! However to me it demonstrates something I have been mulling over for the last few days. Like most people I experience random butterflies of thought. Appearing suddenly in my brain and always as I reach out to touch – whoosh it is gone! I am trying to see this less as frustrating and more as something that will return as a fully fledged idea when my mind has actually figured out its meaning and just as importantly I am receptive to act on it. ( Patience little grasshopper! )
Today my latest butterfly returned, landing gracefully on my hand and told all. Julia Cameron** recommends ‘artist dates’. Such a good idea to plan for and actively do something regularly that is personally and creatively inspiring. So far my dates have been fantastic. ( Sorry darling husband !) But what if I tried something extra? What if it was not just about the things I saw and heard on these dates that I could transfer into art? What if I also challenged myself emotionally? How does this experience make me feel? What is the reaction in my heart? Perhaps like an extension of mindfulness. Exhilaration and wonder; loving passion or gut wrenching sadness – what potent energy to bring to creative work. Hmmmmm. Thank you thought butterfly – I think. This all feels right but somewhat daunting till I get the hang of it. Perhaps bite size steps are called for. Like a dear friend of mine says ” You can’t eat an elephant in just one go! ” ….
* lyrics from Blue Monday by New Order. Factory; 1983 ( Gosh, really that long ago?)
**idea of course from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Penguine; 1992
Funny how often good ideas come to us in the strangest of places! This week while my walk included clambering and slipping over seaweed at a 45 degree angle I realised a profound comparison to my new fledgling creative journey. Ok if you insist on the science, walking increases the flow of oxygen to the brain so it is obvious that I would think more clearly while exercising. However inspite of my ‘ inner scientist’ screaming practical answers from my past I prefer the perhaps more romantic notion that while rambeling we are reconnecting with nature and discovering our instinctive links to the wild. I suspect that both theories are essential ingredients in the mix .
As I stumbled ungracefully along the newly exposed rock pools instead of taking the sensible but dull grass track to the beach, I began to examine the choices that had lead me along this precarious route. That was simple, a life long attraction to guddling about at low tide looking for crabs and starfish first as a child and then with my daughter too. To me it was the only way to go. My dog Angus and I plodded diligently along occasionally looking up to those on the easy route. Invariably I questioned my judgement of bringing us this way and thought of abandoning the adventure. My companion bounced along so I did what I could to follow. Really this was in deed like my new creative path: choosing not to follow convention and so risking justifiable criticism and questions from others and full of self doubt and thoughts of giving up. I can see my goal ahead and if I persist with courage and conviction inch by inch I will reach my goal. The path will take me a different way and bring rewards that may remain unseen by the majority but to me are a reward that makes the little trod path worth taking… Then I had to stop thinking my brain hurt and the guilt ‘gremlin’ * was asking me what on earth I had had for breakfast!
As I struggled to ignore said gremlin a lovely thing happened. I found my reward in a beautiful patch of rock where the layers had been partially eroded making beautiful sweeping curves. Of course these immediately transferred to the virtual canvas in my brain, taking with them the spectacular colours and textures around me.
Reward indeed for the rest of our trip was filled with seeds of ideas to photo and cram into my brain in the hope that they would germinate on my canvas at home. The pleasure and contentment was immense.
Now to see if the idea works….
* you may be familiar with the ‘gremlin ‘ by another name such as self doubt or lack of confidence. He has been the subject of many online creative community discussions and is responsible for the postponment or abandonment of artistic projects and frequently needs support to be banished.Many friends in the meantal health community call him a parrot sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear that I cannot achieve what I wish to. Some give him a name, draw him, humorise him and most importantly acknowledge him for what he is – an untruth. However you do it, banish that gremlin!