I gave an introduction at a family painting class this morning and I think I struck a chord with the kids and parents there.
I hadn’t really thought about what to say, hadn’t actually planned on doing an intro, so I ended up talking about how the fun of creativity was the point of the whole thing. And if the kids (or the adults) we’re getting stressed about how their painting was going, it was ok to turn it into a whole different thing. In fact, they could just smear paint around on the canvas if they wanted – as long as they enjoyed doing it.
I swear I felt a sense of relief in the room.
And when I went around a little later, several kids had done their own thing – some making delightfully glorious messes and others just veering off on their own course. I was delighted to see it.
And one kid was struggling through the process of creating the planned piece so I helped him take a break from the project and try something else.
I felt like I made a connection, did some important work, like what I said had mattered.
As I write this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table on a sunny, chilly Sunday morning, watching an episode of Vera and drawing.
I often find it hard to watch TV or a movie without doing something else at the same time. I don’t know if that’s an ADHD thing or just a people thing. Either way, it’s not a reflection on how interesting the show is.
And I often find it hard to get around to drawing all on its own , too. That *is* an ADHD thing, I find it challenging to start any new task that I know will require a lot of focus or that will take a long time. (And since I have a lot of trouble breaking projects into smaller tasks, it always feels like everything will take forever.)
So the TV/drawing combination works for me.
I just have to choose a show that doesn’t require full concentration and a drawing that is about process instead of about thinking up new stuff.
Hence this robot party that’s just getting started in here:
Well, truth be told, I started this last night but I’m still playing with it this morning.
I was just holding a small piece of flower-printed paper over the right hand side of this collage trying to figure out where to put it when I was struck once again by how weird the creative process is.
When I’m writing, particularly fiction, the feeling of getting things ‘right’ is really strange.
Sometimes my words come easily and sometimes I have to carve each one by hand but they often (always?) feel like I am remembering or uncovering them rather than inventing them. As if they are something I already know but I have to go through a process to remind myself.
And when I am trying to figure out something about a character or to iron out a plot point, there is always this sense that I am trying to figure out something that already exists. Like I am guessing until I get the correct answer. Sure, sometimes I have to put an ‘almost right’ answer for the moment so I can keep the story moving but I always know I will have to come back to it.
So, there’s a certain feeling to it when the words or the ideas start to work. And then when I go to revise, there is a different feeling of sliding words and ideas from place to place until they fit- like figuring out the picture in one of those little square puzzles made from tiles.
A similar thing happens in storytelling or in creating a workshop, I uncover the ideas and words until I *get* them and then the story or the presentation is mine.
When I draw, I usually start with an idea of something to draw and then go through the process of discovering what else wants to be in the image, what else belongs.
With collage/junk journaling, unless I am using the process to work through an issue, it’s rarely about expressing a certain idea.
Mostly, I start with a piece of text or an image that appeals to me and then I flip through my current junk journal to see what kind of background page it needs.
Then I go through my bits of paper, my stickers, my ephemera, to see what else belongs with that starting piece.
That sense of it ‘belonging’ or (in drawing) of it ‘wanting’ to be there is very much the same kind of feeling as ‘remembering’ or ‘discovering’ in my writing and storytelling.
There is that real feeling that the thing I am making, be it a story or be it an image, already has a shape, a reality, and my job is to figure it out.
I often find myself saying ‘Oh, right!’ as I scribble words down, as I outline an image I have drawn, or as I finish moving an image around my collage and set it in the right place.
For example, the collage in the photo above, was going to be two separate things. I was just working on the left hand side until that rectangular piece of paper with the woman on it ‘wanted’ to bridge both pages.
That’s when I ‘discovered’ that this was a two page collage and that the left hand side would have one type of images while the right had something entirely different.
And my little piece of flowered paper belongs on the right, not the left, but I just don’t know where yet.
I’ll just keep moving it around until it tells me where it belongs.
‘This must be Thursday,’ said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer. ‘I never could get the hang of Thursdays.’
Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Is it boring to write about the day of the week? Probably.
Am I doing it anyway? Yep.
Thursdays are always a bit weird for me. A kind of reckoning about how well my to do list matched my capacity this week and then a reset of priorities for Friday.
Not an exciting thing to talk about and it would definitely be a short post.
A boring and short post.
Sometimes you have to let yourself be boring so you can build a habit.
Creative practices, like drawing or writing or blogging get easier the more frequently you do them.
If you stop for a while, you tend to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to create something good or interesting in order to make the practice worthwhile.
The truth is, though, that if you take away the pressure to be good or interesting, you are more likely to be able to create often. When you create often, it is easier (as I mentioned above) and, oddly enough, you are more likely to create something interesting or good.