Last week I wrote about the dawn of the new year, my excitement for things to come, my anticipation for a great year and, to quote myself (probably a bad idea but I'll do it anyway), I'm keeping this in mind:
"the first goal is to simply keep creating"
Well, the week did not roll out as smoothly as someone so rearing to go would have hoped. When it came to creating, the walls went up, the list of goals went out. I guess you could call it blocked, but most simply it was Life that straddled the tracks before my freight train of creative goodness. Migraines, make-me-sleepy-medication, family drama, Jonathan Franzen (seriously loving Freedom right now) - all excuses not to work, if one is so inclined to give up. Human beings are by nature creative beings. Some of us desire a life more tangibly creative, something akin to artistic expression, and it's too many of us with that desire who drop out, give up. Something like 99% quit. But those of us who allow the desire to lead us, who see life not as an excuse to stop creating but simply a minor intrusion to be compromised, the other 1%, there are ways of breaking through the block, finding again our groove, our sanity, our lifeline. This is how I broke through my block and lost only a half a day (which felt like a week) to non-productive wallowing.
Much thanks to Noah Scalin, author of Unstuck - link here - and Etsy for inviting Noah to write a post on getting unstuck - link here - and his fabulous idea of making pictures with leftover food. Yes, really.
By Thursday last week I had not created a single new cartoon (which I realized Saturday was not true, I'd posted on Tuesday, which makes me wonder if my immune system is still so compromised that I've caught someone's short term memory loss), though it remains that I had specific ideas of what should be accomplished new cartoon-wise by Friday and so when late Thursday afternoon hit I was feeling panicky about the encroaching week-end. Over dinner that night with my mother, my sister, Catherine and her friend Michael, I proposed Noah's creative game, and lucky for me everyone wanted to play. We each blindly selected an animal name from a paper bag, then created that animal with the leftover food on our plates. They're more like abstracts of ideas of animals, but see for yourself:
At Friday lunch I was enjoying the produce of stepping out of my focus and deadlines that I continued the game after sushi. Truth be told, I'd been struggling all morning to get the just-right amazed look on Mable's face.
Before the food fun, Thursday afternoon, I berated myself for pacing the house, wondering how I was ever going to get back to work when I thought, maybe I'll just pick up a pen. I recently added a set of sanguine Pitt pens to my arsenal and chose my favorite point and started doodling. This is what I came up with:
The practiced hand reaps the rewards. On Saturday morning, still unable to come up with the perfect amazed face and totally blocked on a Valentines Day cartoon (going with the retail trend on that one) I doodled again.
What I learned from this exercise:
A. I've always been a doodler and doodling shall be respected and practiced, especially when stuck. And:
B. Step outside my delineated area. Try something different, test out someone else's technique. Just get the juices flowing!
I also highly recommend walks through the woods. The calm, quiet of nature replenishes and assuages fears and anxieties, the glimpse of something new, of life outside myself, the emotionless, motive-less order of the natural world helps put me back in place. A view of Friday's walk:
It's important to have goals and content for one's work. And deadlines. Every relevant deadline was met last week, in the end. But it's also important, crucial even, to take the ego out of the process, to avoid placing great expectations on the outcome. Genius is recognized only after a thing is finished, and maybe only days, weeks, centuries after at that. Only the process and motive truly account for merit. From practiced process and honed motives we can accomplish great things. And in the meantime, while waiting for genius to strike and settle, there's the stretch of limits, the challenges we set for ourselves, and the attitude we take toward overcoming obstacles. Be creative everyday. Be the other 1%.