The volatile year of 2020 advances and summer is quickly moving into its last month in the Northern Hemisphere. But the end of Covid19 is nowhere in sight or expected. In fact, emotions are taxed and tolerance is stretched to their limits. I hear these words a lot: “I am finally at home and in the studio more but my creative juices are not flowing. I am stumped, frustrated, anxious and depressed! I am angry I cannot get it together!”
As artists we lead solitary lives and everyone deals with situations differently. However, this is a unique situation and we can all relate to one another. I have heard and seen it on FB that many of my quilting friends and acquaintances have pulled out the sewing machine and fabric stash and jumped in with both feet, so to speak. My long-arm quilting friends are busier than ever (other than during a guild quilt show year). some people are even worried they may run out of fabric. Others have been sewing masks for medical offices, various organizations, friends and family.
And then there are the rest of the creatives that are feeling increasingly anxious because they are not producing… I said it before: A time to “fill the well” is crucial for the advancement of creativity. It is perfectly acceptable not to be churning out quilt after quilt, painting after painting or mask after mask. Arranging flowers for the hall table is a creative act. Walking and appreciating seasonal changes, whether one takes a picture or not, is a creative act. Looking to the horizon at sunset and internalizing the colours is a creative act. Are you breathing easier?
Perhaps you need to hear from another artist that their mind has pulled a blank and they have not touched their sewing machine, paint brush or camera in six months. Recently I received a newsletter from a photographer I follow in my inbox. It started like this: “A couple of weeks ago, I confessed to you that I hadn’t picked up my camera for six months. The replies I received by email and comments on the blog were like a big collective sigh of relief from so many of you—like we were all holding our breath, thinking we were the only ones who had lost some of our previous motivation. And hoping no one else found out.“
This begs for the question: Why is it that we feel such obligation to our tools of the trade? Are we only really validated as artists when we feel passion for our craft 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? There is nothing wrong with any of us when we are not spending all waking hours making art.
How many of you have been part of an exhibition over the years? If you have not exhibited I am sure you will be familiar with this question: “How long did it take you to make this?” As artists we struggle to answer that, unless you were City and Guilds trained where part of the process was to anticipate commission work. Tracking one’s hours becomes second nature. However, the question How long did it take you to make this? comes from a different mindset and I just love the answer one artist provided during an exhibition opening I attended. He calmly looked at the person who had posed the question and said “55 years (his age at the time)” Perplexed silence followed and then the person expressed her frustration and called him arrogant.
But really, let’s think about it. Everything we create is based on the experiences we had previously. Our skills and knowledge constantly build on one another, they evolve. What I created yesterday is only possible because of what I made a year ago. With this in mind, just think about a 24 hour day: We are not constantly exploring new challenges in a day. Some days flow easily because we have the tools and skill to navigate without obstacles, other days take more effort. This is how the creative process works as well. Some things come to us easily, seemingly without much effort and other projects take their sweet time and sometimes call for long breaks to solve a problem or acquire a new skill before we can proceed.
Embrace your creativity! Don’t shy away from the challenges as they unfold even if they bring with them some dry spells. Covid19 is here to stay. New coping skills have to be learned and implemented and we need to learn to trust in the process. Once some inner peace settles over you creative opportunities will unfold before your eyes. They will be part of your dreams and they will bring you more joy. I have learned to trust in the process and I no longer worry about periods of low creative energy. I take advantage of these times, pull out a book, tune into a class online or just head out for a walk. Let your thoughts wander and look beyond the familiar!
Sending out creative energy! Share your personal coping strategies in the comments below! Love to hear from all of you!
I began with a roar having a stack of images printed on cotton from Spoonflower. I cleaned out all my studio cupboards and used all those hoarded scraps to make pillows stuffing them into covers made from old pillow cases making art pillows. The larger pieces I quilted, some as hangings and others mounted on black canvas. Now that all that busy work is done, Saint Donna is in exactly the same boat as everyone else
Your words are a tonic to me today. The past several months have been filled with so many things other than creating. I know more productive times are ahead but for the moment your suggestions on getting through this dry spell are so encouraging. Thaks!