Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Creative Angst and Ambivalence

I wrote an email to my buddy Melody telling her about what a creative slump I'm in, and then I decided to post it here because writing to her about it sort of helped. After all, it's not like you can't TELL I'm in a slump...Okay, you've all noticed that I've been posting the same pictures of quilts I've made earlier, reliving the glory of actually getting something done!

So, here it is: I'm feeling ambivalent. And I'm feeling ambivalent about feeling ambivalent.

When I read the blogs of some of the professional artists and teachers on this web ring, I'm inspired and encouraged...and also envious and discouraged, in a way, by how productive they are and how dedicated to making art they are. And how I'm not.

But then I stop myself from going down that road. I don't want to be an artist selling work...I mean, it'd be cool to sell stuff from time to time but that's not my goal. I don't make quilts to be art winning prizes or attracting big prices. (That's obvious from my output...snort...) That'd be exciting and fun and satisfying, but ultimately that's not what this is all about for me.

And as I was pouring out my slumpiness to Mel this morning, here's what came out that seemed like a good realization:

I want to be energized to be producing work I love, and to love doing it.

That's a worthy goal, right? It actually has helped me to articulate that. I want to be producing work I love and to love the process of doing it.

But here's the ambivalence. When I'm in this sort of mood, part of me thinks that it's useful to turn my attention to getting other stuff done. After all, one of the benefits of NOT doing this for a living is that I can choose to do it solely because I want to, when I want to. This is about keeping me feeling centered and happy and balanced. So, perhaps using this time to accomplish other necessary stuff -- you know, basic stuff like taking the Christmas tree down and cleaning up holiday clutter and thta pesky work that pays the bills -- is important to clear the decks for impending creative time, recharging me to miss being away from working artistically.

Then again, I think that maybe I should be pushing myself to do something, ANYthing, because I might stumble onto something and find myself feeling energized again. Hmmm, it's that old thing about inspiration won't find you if you're not at the work table, eh? Maybe I'm just being lazy. That wouldn't exactly be a first.

(One good and bad thing about being a lawyer is being trained to see all sides of an issue. I confuse myself. And I am the type to overthink things. And notice how all this thinking about whether or not I should be making myself do something is actually way of procrastinating and avoiding doing something creative. But why should I push myself if I don't feel like doing it? See? I can go around and around.)

Anyway, that's where I am right now. Do you all ever feel this way? And how do you get yourself out of it? Do you push yourself, or just let yourself recover?

I'm gonna go to my guild tomorrow and see quilty friends. That'll be fun and maybe even get me cranking again...


  1. Yeah, I know from where you speak. I think we all do. Think of it as "fallow time". A field, to be productive must rest for a season before it can be productive again. You are NOT in a slump... you are fallow.

    Or better yet, you a spring winding up, storing your potential energy so you can expend it some point soon.

    I go through this seasonally, and now I recognize it. I clean the decks and read and sketch and know that very soon I'll wake up one morning with an urge to clear the day and spend it all working in my studio.

  2. Feeling creatively "slumpy" is very seasonal for me (just like Debra said). When days are short, I don't have the urge to make art nearly as much. When the days are longer I have ideas faster than I can make them. I wish I was more "even", but wishing won't make it so. I've always been this way.

    But lately I've come to recognize that I tend to want to do some creative things in winter - like writing and photography - just not so much fabric stuff. So I just go with it and figure it all kind of evens out in the end.

  3. I go through this also but for me the hard part is knowing when to ride it out or to push myself to shake it off. When I want to push, one of the things I do will be to work through exercises from a book of something I'd like to understand better (i.e. Color and Composition currently) just to keep up with a routine or schedule of working until I can look at my own projects with a fresh idea or eyes. I do want to enter shows and exhibits so keeping a habit of working is what motivates me to push myself beyond slumps.

  4. You can nurture your artist by spending time looking at inspirational work, taking a little side trip somewhere, doing a little sketching. I have found I like sketching every day without a particular goal. Everyday things, no project in mind, no pressure. I used to find I would "freeze up" sometimes, but this way things start flowing and, more importantly, I start "seeing" with more intensity.

    The great thing about quilting is that you can also make something traditional that is useful and beautiful. It gets you into the sewing room, handling fabric, picking colors, and is relaxing. Jen

  5. I feel this way all the time. I really struggle with this. I read what our "big name" artful quilter sisters have to say about what they're doing. I remind myself they are professionals.I don't have any aspirations of being at that level but I think, how do they do that? I think for those of us who have children that it's difficult to separate our time away from the children. Not that we have to be with them all the time. But when you are organising their lives, what's going on, where to be, all the details, I lose track of me as an individual. Unless I make a certain time and commit to being in my space working on my creative side, it won't happen. I have decided that is my one goal for the new year. To have that discipline to be there every day.

  6. Diane, being professional or not has nothing to do with the ups and downs of the creativity cycle. We all experience it. Occasionally, the well just goes dry. The urge is still there but the content isn't. The only difference is a professional is working at a job so we have to find little tricks to get us up and running. Usually this is the time that ideas are percolating, working their way up to your awareness. Take the opportunity to relax into your way of working.

  7. For me, it's not what Gabrielle said (urge there, content gone)... it's that I've got content up the wazoo...ideas that I want to do, assignments to work on, etc... but I have no urge.

    But it's reassuring to hear that I'm not alone in going through these periods.

  8. I find that, for me, it's fear. This is totally stupid, I know. But it's so easy to take care of all of the little things that need doing...right now...instead of taking the time to make a stab at an idea. Example...I've been wanting to do something with painting with thickened dyes...I have everything I need to do it. But what if it's ugly? What if I have to trash it? What if? And so it goes. My production problem is usually based in fear. Very frustrating!

  9. Slump...Fallow...artist block....

    I feel the same way right now..... When in that mode, I find, as Karoda says "knowing when to ride it out or to push myself to shake it off". I have tried to shake it off and the art feels forced. So as I try to ride out this slump I start cleaning my sewing room with the hope some inspiration starts through this re-organizing activity.