The Many Faces of Creativity
August 20th, 2008Creative Every Day 2008" folks mentioning that they haven't been creative lately and they'll get back to making art soon. My guess is that they have been plenty creative, but maybe just didn't recognize it as such. Creativity isn't just about making art. We work in cycles, like the cycles of the seasons, the moon, life in general. And if we don't panic in the quieter phases of the cycle, we can actually enjoy the other faces of creativity.
Yesterday, I listened to the Craftcast podcast featuring Kathleen Carr, a photographer, author, and teacher. At some point in the talk, Kathleen mentioned a book about the "seven stages of creativity." I made a note about it because I felt like it would speak directly to this post that I had in my head about the many ways in which we are creative. The book is called, The Widening Stream: the Seven Stages of Creativity by David Ulrich. The author has a website where you can find an overview of the book as well as an outline of the seven stages as he sees them.
I consider the various stages of my own creative cycle to include times when I'm searching and collecting, when I'm soaking up inspiration, when I'm empty, when I'm bursting with ideas, when I'm in the flow, when I'm stuck, etc... I don't think they fall in a particular order for me, it's more like the rolling waves of the ocean. The waves may vary, but generally they are up and down and up again.
(Some of) My modes of creativity:
Search and Gather: When I'm not creating, I'm often in search and gather mode. If I'm being self-critical, then I might see it as procrastinating, but it's all part of the process. Searching and gathering for me might be a walk with my camera, snapping pictures of what inspires me (like the river to the right), perusing blogs or online shops, reading a novel, organizing my art supplies, or wandering the aisles of the library and seeing what catches my interest. Letting your imagination roam can also be fabulously creative! Let yourself daydream from time to time. If I can let go and enjoy this stage, it's immensely fun for me. This is a great time for what Julia Cameron calls "artist dates" where you go out on your own to "fill the well" with inspiration. I enjoy going to greenhouses in the colder months.
Play: It is possible to get stuck in any stage and sometimes I need a push to the next. The super talented artist, Tammy Vitale, recently posted about how she uses playful art-making to get her going when she's struggling. For me it's the same way, play will always bring me back. Maybe not as quick as I'd like, but it always does the trick. I also liked that Tammy mentioned how these down periods don't bother her as much now because from past experience, she knows that they will pass. This is so important. The "dry spell" will pass. So why not enjoy it with some fun creating with no other purpose than to let loose? O.k., now that I think about it, I can see that I enjoy all the modes of creativity. Play, is by definition, a lot of fun. Drawing with crayons or markers like Tammy does is a great way to go. Sometimes, if I need help getting past my inner critic, I'll make art on the floor (see pic below.) This nifty little trick helps bring out my child-like adventurousness. Use whatever works for you, whether it be play-doh or coloring books. Inspiration often comes through play, no need to force it, just relax and enjoy.
Sketch/Write/Get it Out: When the inspiration does start to flow, it often comes in big bursts. If you have an incredible memory, then perhaps you'll be able to contain it all, but if you're like me, you may need to get these idea sparks down in some form. I keep multiple journals at the ready to capture ideas. I have a moleskine type notebook in my purse and various sketchbooks and journals (I've tried to consolidate in the past, but I'm o.k. with multiple journals now.) In these journals I capture dreams, quotes, lists, sketches, and free-form doodles (some sketches from a couple months ago are at the top of this post and below.) I also find myself doodling on junk mail, paper scraps, and receipts which can easily be taped into my journal later if necessary. Ideas often come to me in that lovely time between wakefulness and sleep, in the shower, while driving, on a walk, etc..., so it's good to have some paper and a writing utensil handy. It depends how you work, for you it maybe important to have a voice recorder handy or a portable camera (a camera phone can help capture inspirations when you're on the go!)
Just Do It: A lot of people think that the creating stage is the only part that's creative, but it's not true! All the things that led you to this point are essential and immensely creative! Even when I think I've just jumped into creating without the previous stages, it's often things floating around in my subconscious from my times of searching, gathering, playing, daydreaming, and doodling that have led me to create what it is I've started, seemingly out of nowhere.
It's true that many of us get stuck just before the manifesting stage, myself included. Oftentimes, the hardest part is beginning. When I'm feeling resistance, sometimes it helps to jump back into the playing stage until I'm feeling more confident and ready to tackle something. Or I may simply give myself permission to fail or make gloriously bad art.
Next time you're feeling like you haven't been creative lately, take a look and see if you've been doing any of these things and recognize the creative acts your doing every day!