As any creative knows, there are days (sometimes aplenty) when our process is derailed, when our confidence is shattered, when our consumption of new information and new techniques overwhelms us and we stop. We stop creating. Sometimes for days or weeks or months.
And it's scary, right? It's a frightening prospect to consider our art may someday just not be there for us to tap.
But there are ways to nurture our crafts, nurture our creative spirits and feed the need to create. To do this, it's important to recognize when our process begins to suffer and the root cause. So I've compiled a little list (based on personal experience, of course, so these notes may not always be applicable to all creatives) of the seven deadly sins for the artistic soul.
And maybe, just maybe, by recognizing when they happen, we can take steps to counter their negative presence in our life.
Not taking risks. Oh, comfort zone, how we love thee. This is perhaps my biggest creative sin. I do what I know and I enjoy a place of confidence in my competency and the idea of failing at something new really, honestly, terrifies me. But one of the biggest ways to stifle creative flow and growth is by refusing to take risks. This doesn't mean you need the newest tool or the best supplies. This means it's important to flex the creative muscles any way you can, even when utilizing the materials already at your disposal. What matters is trying something new and sharing it with others. Because it's through the sharing of it that we realize our fears are misplaced.
Self-criticizing before the process is complete. Don't get me wrong, it's an important part of the creative process to be honest with ourselves about our work and the ways in which we can improve. But one of the quickest ways to derail progress is criticizing our work before we've even finished it. How many times have you scrapped a project and started over? By doing this, we are teaching ourselves that our story (here I go with the "story" metaphor again) is somehow flawed and, excuse me, but you... are.... not.... flawed. So I challenge you with this: the next time you want to scrap a project, fight the urge and push through. Use that mistake and build from it. Because what is a story without the mistakes from which we learn? And you might be surprised by the magic of your mistakes.
Inconsistent creative times. If you've followed my blog for five minutes, you'll know I'm a huge advocate for organization, planning and order. And while many creatives may fight this ideology and cling to the cliche that artists are inherently chaotic, there is an important role of consistency and order in the creative process. By this, I mean it's important to create daily. Every single day. It doesn't have to be gallery-worthy. It doesn't have to be wearable. It doesn't even have to be particularly pleasing to look at. It just has to be made, however small, however functional, however utterly UN-artistic it may seem. Create something every day, be it a sketch, a poem, collage, a journal entry, a prayer, a photograph. Even 100 ear wires or 5 feet of viking knit chain. All of these activities stimulate the creative muscle and it's through this daily stimulation that our imagination and creativity become habitual.
Consuming more information or skills than we have time to process. I see this one a lot. I want to learn bezel setting. I want to learn soldering, or metal clay or electroforming or acrylic paint pouring, knitting, pottery, crotchet! This may be hard to hear..... this may even be totally counter-intuitive to your nature..... but it's important to limit our creative endeavors to what we have time to really invest in and process. Learn something new, yes, but then do that thing for months and months. Do it until you don't have to think about it any more because your body knows what's required of it to tell your story effectively in your art. Then learn something new, and do that thing for a year. But, by consuming an endless library of skills, techniques or information, you're more likely to overwhelm and short-circuit your creative muscle than you are to flex it.
Believing there is nothing new to learn. You know that saying "there's nothing new under the sun"? You should, because I've mentioned a time or two how much I hate it. The confusion here is that we sometimes believe learning is limited to technique, but art and creativity is more than that. Our voice and heart and spirit (however woo-woo that may sound) is part of the process, perhaps the most important part, and there are always new ways to express that spirit. I challenge you to spend thirty days.... one whole month.... working with only one medium, and make something totally different with that medium each time you pick it up. If wire is your medium of choice, make a pendant one day, a brooch the next, a sculpture, then a candle holder or a wall hanging or a picture frame. Teach yourself (through risk, as mentioned above) that there are endless ways to tell a story and you'll never know them all.
Toxic comparison as a form of self-sabotage. Oh boy. This is a big one and perhaps the most damaging of them all. Because there is no quicker way to dampen our creative flow than by comparing ourselves to others. And we've all done it, I hazard a guess, because we're socially wired to see ourselves as less than. Our bodies are less than those in the ads. Our paintings are less than those in the galleries. Our jewelry is less than those in the magazines. But that's doing ourselves an immense disservice, because comparing our work to others is diminishing the heart and soul of our creative flow. My challenge to you: go to Pinterest or Google and find that artist and his or her work who sparks you to say "I'll never be that good." Go on... do it. We all have that artist to whom we have compared ourselves and found ourselves lacking. And look at their art. Admire it for the beauty and talent and dedication it took to complete it. There is purpose and meaning in surrounding ourselves with the art of others and finding beauty and inspiration from it. But then look at your own art and note all the ways, even if you have to physically write them down, your work is amazing. Did you utilize a new technique in your latest piece? Did that wire flow in just the right way to lead into the next and the next and create a whole? Did the combination of materials spark joy in your when you put them together and planned your work? Be proud of your accomplishments. You made something! And the next time you make something it will be better.
So tell me, have you committed any of these creative sins? Are there sins you've created that I haven't mentioned here? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!