Welcome to our latest installment of the Guest Post Series. Holly chose to write about the creative process and some of its frustrations. There are some choice phrases in here that have stuck with me for weeks, so I’m pleased to present you with her words. In the meantime, if you’re interested in writing about your creative process, your emotional connection to your artwork, or thoughts about a specific project, please contact me!
The creative process is powerful but it isn’t always wonderful. Sometimes it’s fraught with self-doubt and anxiety. I’ve been sitting here for hours staring at this blank page, why can’t I think of anything??
It always feels bad when you try to “force-create.” I’m sure you all know the feeling — staring at a blank page, willing the ideas and creativity to flow. Maybe there’s a birthday/anniversary/christening/special occasion coming up and you’ve promised to make something, but what? It has to be perfect, and no pressure, but you’ve only got a few days to make it so better get cracking. Gotta get those ideas flowing. Come on now, time’s running out.
I don’t think there’s any way to avoid force-creating — we’re all going to come across it at some point — but how I like to deal with it is to get up and walk away for a while. Give it some space, come at it from a different angle. Often my best ideas come to me while I’m doing something completely unrelated.
My actual creative process is usually very subconscious. It always starts with an idea. It starts foggy at first, like the phenomena of seeing something from the corner of your eye, but when you turn to look it’s not there.
The idea creeps around the outside of my mind for a few days. I like to think of it as an incubation of sorts. I don’t interfere – I let it sit and incubate and grow and develop until it’s ready to reveal itself to me. Then comes that deep-in-your-stomach flutter of excitement as you think yes! Yes this is really great! Yes I can do something with this! Then it’s like a fever takes hold. A fever where eating seems irrelevant, where sleeping just slows you down, where your head is full of wonder and light and colours.
Sometimes notes are made and sketches are drawn, sometimes I just roll up my sleeves and jump in. Often it’s messy. Often the casualties are grand. If you have ever seen someone trying to design a new plushie, you will know how big the pile of mutant discards can be. Club legs, misshapen heads, darts gone wrong.
But sometimes it’s not until you put it all together and you stuff it and you look at it for a while that you realise… something’s just not right. You might not even know what doesn’t suit to begin with, but if something’s off you’ll have a nagging feeling in the back of your mind. Often I have to talk myself into fixing things, instead of continuing to work on a piece that I’m just not happy with, or letting it languish because I’m not happy.
Admittedly, ashamedly, I do have a short attention span and a lot of my creative ideas fall prey to the thought that if I don’t do them now, they’ll slip back into the edges of my mind and get forgotten. But I do love the fever pitch of a new idea. It’s like the honeymoon phase of a relationship, all giddy and exciting.
Other days… it’s not so great. My creativity comes in spits and spurts. Usually I feel my most creative when I have a lot of things I need to do, and suddenly my productivity increases – of course, not toward anything that actually needs to be done! I don’t try to start anything when I’m in one of my down periods, as I hate to force create. But I have a few projects I can pick up when I’m in a creative lull – like a cross stitch or some embroidery — just something small to occupy my hands until my brain fills up with ideas again.
For me, creating is living. Creating is finding myself, validating myself, exploring myself, trying on different things for size. I am a plushie maker, I am a stamp carver, I am a quilter, I am an OCD sufferer with a penchant for organising my fabric in a rainbow fashion. I struggle with creativity, but I know, now, that I couldn’t live without it.
Through creating I’ve learnt that not all criticism is bad. I’ve learnt patience and persistence, and I’ve watched myself grow. I’ve learnt to go slow, but not too slow – you’ve gotta keep working at being creative. I’ve learnt new techniques, I’ve met new friends, and I’ve learnt to respect myself again. I’ve learnt that not everything works out the way you want and you know what? Maybe that’s okay.
Holly McGuire is a mild-mannered bus driver by day, bringing her love of craft to the people on the streets, one bus stop at a time. By night, however, she is a rogue crafter and lover of all things handmade. Too excitable to be tied down by one craft she dabbles in many – plushies, stamps, quilting, bag-making. You can follow her creative adventures (and mishaps) over on her blog, Two Cheese Please.