Monday, December 14, 2015

Dear Maker Series: On Creative Drought

As this holiday season winds down I head into my ninth year of SunnyRising: almost a decade of 
running this train!! I'd like to think I've gained some knowledge in this long relationship. I'd like to share processes and thoughts here.

This post is about creative blocks. 

As I write this I am in the latter midst of a creative drought, fittingly in California.
Though I could go back into the sketchbook and bring out maybe hundreds of ideas that previously 
thrilled me, nothing fresh is coming through.

I am working slowly but surely on a very long term project, one whose unrealized existence may have been the thing stopping the flow of new ideas. More about that in a minute.

Creative drought could start with anything. 
A butterfly flapping its wings in Minnesota.
A criticism.
I mean really though, it could be twenty thousand things that gum up the works. As sensing people there's a good chance that we're...sensitive! News from around the world of late would be enough cause to put down the brush/hammer/torch and weep, let alone stress from our own lives.

Whatever the cause of this slowing, it's such a normal and integral part of a maker's's why we change course mid-stream, it's what makes us re-evaluate and tweak our businesses and artistic work.
Perhaps it's a tap on the shoulder reminding us to please take a break.

Do you take enough breaks? Me either. We should work on that. Ha ha.

Once we're in that dry spell it just...well, it just fucks with you. Let's just let real be real.
Confidence becomes despair and sometimes we spin our wheels so fast that we're just more mired down than before we did anything to fix our situation.
I'm not sure doubling down on work is the key, though it might be.
I'm not sure taking off for Fiji to find ourself is the solution, though wow it sounds really nice (and it might be).
It's completely different for each person
I do think that the drought has an inevitable end just as I really do think droughts are inevitable.
If it's a natural wave pattern complete with crest and trough then isn't it a lot less scary?
It's daunting!

Heck, I still haven't pinpointed what's constipated my creativity but I do know
that with almost a decade of in-the-black business ownership under my belt it is STILL utterly unsettling. Terrifying, actually. I like to think of my art life as a very healthy organism, that I keep all the parts oiled and dry but in the midst of raising a beloved little boy and running a household sometimes things get a little rusty.

Pair the oxidation with less than robust sales in the last few months and I'm really sitting at that crossroad of "what needs to change?" with a sharp discomfort. Like many of you, my income is not really optional, it's necessary. That definitely puts pressure on the decisions. There's only so much wiggle room.


I'm doing what has always been the thing that needs to be done when two roads diverge in that old yellow wood:

I am leaping wildly over the hill in the middle, not sure of what's on the other side.

For the longest time I had this intense vision of a piece of art, like for your wall.
Not made of metal (though employing it in places) but tooled leather both flat and formed.
It represented the apex of what my hands can do with the mediums I love.
It woke me up in the morning, it kept me up late.

(It still does.)

But every day I take an hour and I work on it (I pinkie swore with myself that I would). I work on small pieces that go into My Shops
and things long-promised to patient friends and then I do what I promised I'd do.

My drought-cause thought is that this wall art idea was so game-changing and persistent that it clogged the pipe.
It held off the rain clouds.

Am I still nervous in the midst of what could be a game-changer? Ohmygod yes. Am I paralyzed? Heavens no. That's a waste of time. 

It's tough to look at our less-than-ideal creative situations as a scientist would when we're emotionally and financially invested in them but I think there is a very big gift in doing so,
in lists and figures and plans and action strategies.

The alternative is falling apart and digging in our heels. That might be fun for a while, melodrama can be very satisfying but ultimately that's such a silly way to spend the days when we've got these gifted and useful hands. Let's not wring them, let's use them to build the foundation for future work.

What started for me as "Fine!! I'll do it!!" has become a guide of sorts: 'Chrysalis Heart' will be the centerpiece of a new website where all of the things that previously got scattered over the interwebs will have one central point. I think I'll write more.
I think I'll look into other selling options, be they art shows or stockists.

If creative longevity teaches you anything it's that there is nothing static
about the path we're on.
Sometimes craft splits off into other aspects of creative work,
sometimes we throw in the towel to get relief,
sometimes we innovate and survive in our chosen field.
None of these paths are any less valid than the next or the previous.

I'm making lists
and checking them twice,
trying to figure out what is nice about my business
and what needs to go suck on a lump of coal.

I am getting loving advice from my best advisors.

I am delighting in the holiday successes of my brothers and sisters in making because it's gorgeous to see someone fly.

I am baking and snuggling and talking endlessly about superhero stuff with my favorite guys.

I trust that the world is wide and infinitely filled with possibilities.
I trust that what made me has guided me to make.
I trust that if I see this process as an adventure it will be so.
Even the droughty bits.

With great wishes for your own crests and troughs,

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