Dating Your Inner Artist

There are always ways in to creativity, I tried an Artist’s Date this month

April’s writing has been hampered by the school holidays and my hand injury. I did work out I could type using voice dictation but frankly by the time I had made corrections to Google’s guess at my brilliant prose, all the flow had gone. If the problem persists I may have to overcome my embarassment and ask someone to type up my work. Instead of getting frustrated with my lack of creative output, I have take the chance to indulge in Artist’s Dates.

Taking Artist’s Dates is a key practice from The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron. She suggests we take a couple of hours each week to engage in something different and I have a list of ideas that you can do cheaply.  I tend to take it as advice to play more. That the act of being creative even just a little bit, has the effect of making your life more playful.

There is a great quote from Tim Burton, “Anyone with artistic ambitions is always trying to reconnect with the way they saw things as a child.” Well, as a child I had a wild, untamed imagination. I had dreams and pretend friends and a passion for singing and dancing. And so when I try and connect with both my inner child and artist, I am wistful for the child who could become completely absorbed in her play and try and take this principle into my Artist’s Date.

To recapture my dreamy inner child, I have been revisiting my childhood with a series of Anne of Green Gables novels on audiobook. Recently listened to Anne of the Island and found the perfect quote to inspire my date.

I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday,  sweet and fragrant, between it’s leaves

L. M. Montgomery

It was finally time to get out my flower press. This was a find in another recent Artist’s Date where I looked around the charity shops for anything that inspired me. I think I had a go at flower pressing as a child inside the Complete Works of Shakespeare but this made it a more formal pursuit. I picked some dandelions and wild growing bluebells to try out.

Such a sweet find

The flowers are pressed between corrugated sheets of card and onto acid free paper so you could make something with the final product.

Tightened it up, looks like you could do a number of flowers at a time

After a week in the press I had slightly mishapen flowers but a pretty first attempt. I put them back a bit longer as clearly the idea is to take them out once dried. The advice is to always pick your flowers on a dry day. To finish off my week I bought a seed bomb of wild flowers for my backyard to see if I can make my own flowers to press.

Like all art when you first try it, it may not be the most beautiful thing ever created but this was a great chance to try something new.

Have you tried Artist’s Dates? How does it inspire you?

Good ideas have to fester

Creating something doesn’t always mean getting it down on paper…

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about grabbing hold of the tail of an ethereal idea and holding on to it before it flies away. I certainly agree that you have to be open and living a creative life for ideas to develop more easily, but her thoughts that ideas can fly away terrifies me. I wrote before how I was motivated by her book but I also feel a different process happens for me with an idea as it forms.

This month I have focused on my motherhood project, I promised to update on the blog more often how my projects are going and in a way I am ashamed to say I have only written another 900-odd words. That’s less than a day’s worth in NanoWriMo! But it is also a sign that I have an idea developing. I was unsure whether there was much scope for the project when I reviewed my year, but a spark came out of writing my Morning Pages.

One of my favourite posts is my Imperfect Guide to Morning Pages . The truth is, it is not always the serene ideal of morning journalling that the internet sells us, but it is certainly a great practice. Reminding myself to use those pages to work out the niggles often prooves effective and if you haven’t yet used Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way – I think it’s essential developing creativity and unblocking your ideas. So along with writing a gratitude diary at the end of each day, I am back at my pages. Bookending my days with the most important things: writing (and reading of course.)

I sometimes remember to write in cafes, not just eat!

And this is why I feel it is alright for my ideas to fester away in the quagmire of my foggy brain. A stewed on idea often comes out more clearly than trying to grasp at the mere suggested ingredients that come to you at first. It’s a slow way to cook up something new but I feel it was a bit more fully formed when I sat down to write. Knowing that I have managed a writing session as well as journalling feels encouraging too. When I review next month’s work, I will have a bit more to report as the characters and relationships develop and more scenes grow in my head. The hope is more of these ideas will have made it to the page.

How’s your writing month been?

Inspiration is like magic

Is inspiration so ethereal that it can run away from you?

I am worried that inspiration whisks away in the time I take to grab hold of an idea. I have been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She believes firmly that you have to open yourself to creativity and grab inspiration when it strikes.

I have written before how I think inspiration is everywhere. In fact it is very easy for me to get caught in a new idea. I have tried and tested ways of getting them down into snippets, sometimes if it is a character, I may write them a short story. And if I feel stuck, I just look around and start writing about what I see. That may not be a very inspired practice but I tend to find that as I start to write what I see, my imagination will follow. She will tell me what a character might do in a circumstance or ask me to see how I feel in that moment, so that I flit into a different perspective.

But Elizabeth Gilbert doesn’t just tell us to be open to pure inspiration, she tells us to be ready. She tells us to work at them. She concedes you need many things to be ready. A sense of artistic entitlement that you absolutely have permission to be creative. A practice of working with what life throws at you, rather than resist it. As the quote below explains, ideas are out there, they are…

energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic is a very inspiring thesis to read. It tells you to get on with it. And if we follow the logic of her idea: the Universe wants me to know this right now. Our lessons, inspiration, come along at the right moment and are they are there to help us. And so this book coming along and telling me to grab the ideas because they will spring away is exactly what I need to hear.

It is also terrifying! My time is limited, my energy levels are pretty low, as I have explained. What do I do if these ideas float through the window and I am distracted or napping?

I think sometimes it might be about letting something go. An idea that has gone stale will get lost in a quagmire. As she says, “Done is better than good.” She reminds us we have to practice and sometimes we have to let it go. Kill your darlings, know what is still fresh and get on with it.

I have found her book a really good boost to my writing though I haven’t been able to do much. I like how she too is fascinated by creativity and where it springs from.

Have you developed your creativity based on Big Magic?

Being Just a Little Creative

If my energy is low, can I still be a little creative?

The Bank Holiday weekend is stretched before us in the UK and we haven’t made plans. There may be more options now the world is opening up but a rainy day and little energy means another weekend at home for us. The boys are entertained by snooker and youtube and I wonder if I can sneak in a little Artist’s Date?

On impulse, I visited a craft store last weekend and I drag out the card blanks. The coordinated paper packs soothe me with soft Spring colours. It probably doesn’t look much now I am finished but since buying a few supplies, this is the second card I have made this week. One has gone off as a birthday card and this will be a thank you. I have long thought that card-making was a good craft for me. A simple beginning, middle and end. They will never look like a professional job but that’s not always the purpose. Sometimes, it’s to make something simple that pleases you.

The reason Julia Cameron encourages you to take two hour “Artist Dates” each week in The Artist’s Way is I think to widen your perspective on life, maybe take the occassional risk. At the beginning of the pandemic, I played a little in papercraft by creating a collage and this too helped me. The ideas I am trying are more simple bit I do get satisfaction from the play of it all. And I think the idea that if you live your life in a creative way, it starts to impact on all areas of your life is very appealing to me.

In real terms it meant I sat for half an hour this week and wrote a scene that’s been missing from my work-in-progress. A piece of the puzzle that clicked into place. And that was after my first attempt at card-making for several years. I can’t say that one created the other. That crafting led to writing. But allowing these little outlets for creativity into my routine, may help me work even for small amounts.

Though I am still balancing my health concerns and everday life, it is heartening to see how creativity can help me with more than just my work but my mind too. As Elizabeth Gilbert explains in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, that creativity has to have somewhere to go.

Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

I think the key for me is knowing what I can do right now and letting out the creativity in short, little bursts.

Have you anything creative planned for the weekend?