A friend touched base yesterday. In her email she shared that she had recently planned a quilting weekend, but when it came to enjoying her free time without demands, she felt a lack of energy and enthusiasm and spent the weekend “just” reading a book and watching the Olympics. Her question “How do you get over the blahs…? Do you allow yourself the break or just power through. Your situation is very different from most of us but still must be a struggle sometime.” struck a chord.
I can’t remember a winter where I didn’t have to deal with the “blahs”, blues and a lack of enthusiasm. My studio is only a few steps from the house, but braving the sub-zero temperatures coupled with the windchill makes this short trek less than enjoyable. Secret # 1: I regularly talk myself out of going into the studio first thing in the morning.
Generally a new year generates fresh energy, countless ideas and a drive to experiment and create. This year is a little different for me. After a hectic fall with constant travel and more teaching engagements over such a short time than ever before I finally realized last weekend that I am not as focused as usual.
I had planned to use December to just “sit on the couch” and “read a book or two,” but life got in the way, and I was busy planning next summer and a preparing for a brand-new design workshop in the studio that started the first weekend of January. It is almost the middle of February and I am behind in creating new work – I am still catching up from finishing work started in 2013…
Back to the question on hand: Do I allow myself to give in to the “blahs”? The short answer is “yes”, Secret # 2. Why? I have been self-employed for most of my adult working life, and with that in mind I have burned out a few times. Burn out followed a “go – go – go” attitude without granting myself permission to slow down and build in regular rest periods. This rest period does not mean I have to just slouch on the couch and do nothing, I believe in balancing my activities – a little like cross-training in the gym. The same old routine will soon become boring and will surely be abandoned.
I don’t just work with fabric on my sewing machine, I also enjoy adding stitches by hand to keep things interesting. After several long days in the studio I make sure I take my camera out (when it isn’t too cold) and capture the environment. Last week the cold prevented such an outdoor excursion, so I pulled some white fabrics from the cupboard, added a few eggs and other white treasures from the stash and came up with images such as these:
…No, there was nothing wrong with my camera when I captured the eggs. I used a purple gel over the flash just to change it up a bit.
Secret # 3: Then there are days where even the camera can’t entice me to explore my creativity. If a good book isn’t calling I might check out the pantry for ingredients to bake cookies, a cake or make a special dinner.
Secret # 4: And if none of the above can inject energy into my blue day, I simply give in. These are days that I call “filling the well” days. A time to sit back, watch a movie, cuddle my dogs, light a candle and listen to music is never wrong. I know from experience that I will soon grow tired of this down-time and get back to my creative endeavors.
Secret # 5: When it comes to artists and their work we hear only too often “I am blocked!” I don’t use this term, as I firmly believe that the lack of creative energy has its origin in a lack of downtime, a time to grant oneself permission to not worry about art, the production of work or meeting unreasonable expectations, ones’ own and those of others.
Secret # 6: My situation is not so different from anyone else. We all have daily demands on us. We look forward to a day off, a long weekend or even just one evening. We make plans to do this and that and before we know it, we have a full agenda. The day/weekend finally and – poof, we have lost all energy and desire to pursue our best laid plans. I do this all the time. While on the road I make notes about what I am going to do when I get home to my studio… and when I do return, the idea doesn’t seem so exciting after all. My sketchbook is full of such plans, great ideas and quick sketches. I hold on to those sketchbooks and flip through them off and on. Much of my work has been inspired by these quick sketches. If it doesn’t get recreated exactly the way I envisioned it at the time of putting it on paper, it usually provides a great jumping off point for something completely new and exciting.
Secret # 7: Creating diversity in one’s own life is a great way to stay energized. I am passionate when it comes to working with fabric. I love to share my knowledge when I teach. I also treasure quiet times to relax, write and dream. Writing and photography have taken a special place in my life alongside the textile art and teaching. I am working actively to ensure I am not spreading myself too thin in one area or another.
Enough about me: How do you overcome the mid-winter blues? Care to share – please weigh in with a comment below!