Oh gods. It’s happened again.
I’ve found myself in between projects. There’s paint drying on one piece, and I just finished up the thing I was doing while waiting for each coat to dry. Suddenly, I’m off my rhythm. It’s no longer “dab some gold trim on this, then get back to stitching that.” Now it’s “just a little more burnt umber here….and now what?”
I look to my work table. There are a couple of project ideas sitting there, but nothing really inspires me. Hmm, I can’t work on that one until tomorrow since the downstairs neighbors wouldn’t appreciate me running the Dremel at this hour. And that other one there just hasn’t come together in my head yet. One of these days, but not now.
Alright. Back to the back bedroom where I keep the bulk of my supplies. Jinxed again! When I’m busy cleaning this place up, I’m rife with ideas for things to create with my little treasure trove. Not now, though. I pick up a metal lid with a decorative pattern that I’d thought to put into an assemblage piece–but then there’s a hide I’ve been meaning to make into a bag–and over there is a pile of secondhand necklaces I haven’t yet disassembled and salvaged for beads.
Worse yet, it’s after ten at night and I have a limited shelf life before I need to sleep, caffeine or no. And I have a busy few days, so anything I start now will likely have to be shelved til the weekend. Oh, the frustration of it all!
If you’re a creative sort, the above dilemma likely sounds familiar. When we artists (by which I mean all sorts, not just visual artists) have the freedom to start any new project we want, the choices can feel overwhelming to the point where we end up stuck. This isn’t quite the same as the usual understanding of writers’ block or similar woes. That’s the opposite issue–there are no ideas, no inspirations, nothing but dull emptiness where creativity usually resides.
No, this is an overwhelming flood of possibilities, each one clamoring for attention as loudly as the next. There’s almost a sense of guilt in picking one out, as though the others will feel left out and unloved. How can I create all my projects at the same time!
But that’s one of the greatest fuels for the artist’s fire: the fact that no matter how long we live we will never, ever run out of projects. I have no doubt that on my deathbed I will still have a long list of things I wanted to create, and I only hope my joy at all the things I did manifest will outweigh the regret of the never-weres.
And art can be patient, too. The project waits for the artist until both are ready to dance. Right now, a lot of my creative effort–and, quite frankly, time and energy–is going into making my yearly arts festival, Curious Gallery, come together next month. I just finished a book manuscript up last month, and I’m itching to start on one of the two dozen ideas on my ever-growing books-to-write list, plus a pretty massive art project I’ve been planning for some time. However, those will have to wait. I can only really tackle one Big Project at a time, with other more routine, small art and writing projects tucked in around the edges. But I know these Big Projects will still be waiting for me after the middle of January, when Curious Gallery is done for another year.
But that’s then. This is tonight, with a scant bit of time before I go to bed. The paint’s dried, and I find myself most of the way through writing this post. How did I get here? I chose, looking at a few factors as I did:
–Time: I realistically only had a couple hours at most before fatigue set in. And I didn’t want to get into anything too involved, just something to do in the bit of time I had. A blog post would suffice.
–Need: It’s been a few days since I last posted here. I didn’t have the time or energy for a really deep, involved, or emotionally taxing post, so I decided to keep it light and on the topic of the moment.
–Energy: Creative pursuits are fun, but they can be really exhausting (which is why it can be infuriating when people treat all art as a hobby, not actual work.) Since it was late, I didn’t really have it in me to start on some elaborate thing that would require a dozen different materials or a proper opening topic sentence, though I tried to offer some substance, at least.
–Demand: You, my audience, are a fairly easy crowd to please. Yet I feel the need to switch up my publicly consumable creations. If I let the blog lie fallow for too long, interest wanes, and some of you are mostly here for my writing. However, my more art-inclined fans like having a fresh infusion of hide-and-bone-and-stuff goodness, and I don’t want you neglected, either. And there are those of you who are creative omnivores, and I like giving you a balanced diet of works. So since I’ve been a bit heavy on the art lately, I thought a blog post would be a nice thing to wake up to.
–Attention: All of the above is fairly logical and planned out. However, there’s intuition to it as well. I just can’t get into a project if it doesn’t capture my attention, and you artists know how it is trying to force yourself to complete a project you have to do but don’t really want to do right this moment. So even if all the other factors come together for a particular project, if my heart’s not in it I’m not gonna do it.
Mind you, this isn’t a perfect recipe for artistic success every time. I very nearly spent the previous hour and a half scrolling through Tumblr, Wikipedia, and other places where I can let my brain relax a bit before bed, and there have been plenty of occasions where I’ve crawled into the sack at 2am thinking “How the hell did I just spend two hours doing nothing?” Sometimes it’s good for me to do nothing for a while. For those times where I absolutely must be productive, though, giving myself the opportunity to settle on one of many projects tends to stand me in good stead.