The other night, my husband and I were each working on our own individual creative projects in the studio. His being a book he’s writing and mine being an embroidered photograph for my art book of the week. I guess he was having a frustration moment with his book because all of a sudden he turns to me and says “How do you stay creative all the time? I don’t know how you do it.”
It was a rhetorical question when he asked it and he left the room right after so I never answered him. But it did get me thinking.
Am I creative all the time? Do I feel creative all the time? It is true that I constantly feel like I’m about to burst with ideas, especially when I’m not at a place where I can get out my drawing pens or paints. But I still have lots of blank moments too. So how do artists stay filled up with ideas? How do you get past a creative block?
I wrote down a few thoughts based on my own experience and natural habit of keeping my tank filled. (Warning: lots of cliché analogies here but I think they make sense.)
Basically it boils down to creative input > creative output. Keep the input side more full and your output side won’t run out.
- I act like a sponge. Constantly soaking up inspiration. From the natural world, from other artists, from photography. When I’m ready to make something, I’ve always got tons of visual inspiration stored up. Either in my brain or most likely on my phone or on Pinterest.
- I ask lots of questions. “What is it about this that I like?” “How can I repeat that?” “How can I make this more interesting?” “Could this start a conversation?”
There’s not really a magical secret to it. Artists are not geniuses. Well, I guess some of them might be but that can’t be a prerequisite because I’m definitely not. It’s just a habit of keeping yourself gassed up. How can you expect to run a marathon if you have no fuel? If you are starving yourself? Look. Observe. Take notes. Keep your sponge dripping wet. If you’re constantly topping off your gas tank, you’ll never run out. (See what I mean about all the analogies?)
This is the honest truth. It’s really that simple. Because I do this so constantly–and I mean all the time–I feel like I’ve overfed myself and am aching to get it out. I’m not sure this is healthy but I don’t run out of ideas very often. Even after doing a 12 hour project I don’t feel drained of ideas. I just feel like I’ve sipped the excess off the top of an overly full glass that could still spill over any second.
Maya Angelou was so right when she said:
“You cannot use up creativity. The more you use it, the more you have.”
So slow down and look around you. Take some pictures, write some observations down. Before you know it, you might have an idea that seemingly came from the sky. (I would argue that all my ideas originate from something outside of me.) And for goodness sakes, have fun! Don’t take art so seriously. That sucks the life right out of it. Make something weird. Or funny. Or really bad. Just fill up and show up over and over and the creativity will happen. That’s the magic in it I guess.