Friday, June 03, 2005

Where inspiration comes, and goes

Gabrielle raised the subject of inspiration, and how to find it, in her blog the other day. She's said some provocative things, and I thought I'd add my two cents to the subject.

First, I want to respond to the concept that you have to put yourself into the studio every day, inspired or not. I can see the value of that, truly. But here's the thing: I think that "working" artistically isn't always an outward, active process. It doesn't alway need to mean manipulating fabric with one's hands. I think that time contemplating, thinking about ideas, relaxing and really looking at things around us to find images or shapes or colors that speak to us, are all part of the process of working on art. It's a level of awareness, perhaps, that allows you to see things in any setting and any circumstance as fodder for creativity.

Simply put, if you're in the studio slogging away day after day (pushing yourself to do the "outer" art), how do you have time to feed the "inner" artist?

I'm just thinking out loud here (well, in print, anyway) so maybe I'll disagree with these thoughts tomorrow. But I know that, for me, some of my most fertile and inspired times come after I've not been able to do (or I've not beein the the mood to do) in-studio work. Being away from the studio makes me think and feel differently, or approach things in a new, fresh way when I do return. And maybe this is my own contrary personality: if I feel that I *have* to do something, that feeling can often seriously dampen the happy creative energy I feel when I'm doing something simply because I *want* to do it.

I'm reminded that I've done some of my best work under pressure, when I've committed to produce something for some (usually self-imposed) deadline. So, I know all too well that there is something valuable about pushing forward that can release unexpected, unseen wells of creativity.

But you know that feeling of trying to remember something that is on the tip of your tongue, and how the harder you try to actively remember it, the more distant it feels? When I let the conscious effort go and let myself relax, the concept often floats right to mind. There's something about creativity and inspiration that is like that for me. Trying too hard to be creative can be frustrating and unproductive, sometimes. And sometimes, for me anyway, giving myself permission to let the effort go can be the most helpful thing I can do to find new creative energy.

So, I've learned that it's important for me to listen to myself, and give myself the time and space to rest, re-energize, and find new, quiet places for creative inspiration to grow. Here's a quote that expresses what I mean: "So you see, imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering. " -- Brenda Ueland.

I don't mean to sound like I think that inspiration just strikes out of nowhere. I don't think it does, and I do think that the old saying about inspiration being 90% perspiration is a valid one.

Bear in mind that I don't come at this from the perspective of someone who is trying to make a living as an artist. I consider myself an artist (and in the novice category, at that), but it's not the way I earn income. So, I'm not coping with the pressure to produce a constant stream of new, different work. That probably makes quite a difference in one's approach to this subject.

Because my professional work is in a different area, I don't have the feeling that Gabrielle expressed, that "In this time of production is everything...you are only as good as your last quilt...and we have to make x number of quilts a year to be viable..." But I did want to note my disagreement. I don't think that an artist is only as good as his or her last work. Do you think most people really think so? I think that an artist is viewed by his or her body of work over time, and some pieces are better or more successful than others. I guess I take the long view on this creative process, but maybe I have the luxury to do so because it's not my living.

I'm glad Gabrielle raised the topic, and I'm enjoying reading what others are posting about it.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Moodling? Great word, and definately a good description of a good portion of my creative process. (DH would probably agree more vehemently, as having my moodling interupted can certainly put me in a 'mood'!)