The Passion to Create

April 11, 2011
#3 by Michael Cunningham
I’m dreadfully late in getting back to a question posed several weeks ago…. ah life. It can get in the way of the best intentions. I ruminated and pontificated on fitting art into your life in this post. It was in response to a very thoughtful and heart felt question from Michael Cuningham. Here is the long overdue answer to the second part of his question – “with all of the “life” that gets in the way of creating, how do you keep the passion going?”
As I ponder this question I think it has to do with your long term goals. Life ebbs and flows and there are seasons and times for focusing on different things. But if you have long term goals you can see past a current ebb and over the long run, life will flow in the direction of those goals.
Keep your goals realistic. I only think about one or two goals regarding my art each year. This year, they didn’t even include any sort of concrete production goals. I wanted to improve my attitude (by being grateful) and develop some studio discipline. That’s it. My youngest goes off to school next year and I want to be better about utilizing the uninterrupted studio time I’ll gain. Right now I know I have bad habits. I waste far too much time on my computer. I need to go re-read Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”. It’s a favorite.
Family Ties: Knit Together
So – if something fits and helps me achieve that goal then I need to work on it. If it doesn’t it’s OK to let it go. I let several application deadlines slide by me last week – they weren’t high on my list of priorities getting towards this goal. Next year – they are part of my goal set.
Now, if you’ve lost the desire to finish a project or goal – is it a goal you truly want to keep working at or should you give it up? That’s the first question to answer. Then ask why. Then ask why again. If you choose to keep that goal on your priority list – remember to figure out the underlying reason you have that goal. Where will it get you and is that the place you want to end up?
If yes is the answer and you still have creative ennui… first check your health. Are you taking your vitamins and getting enough sleep? Do so.
Family Ties: Knit Together
Is the task too overwhelming that you have set for yourself? Just choose to do a little chunk of it. I end up being amazingly productive if I force myself to set a timer and do actual creating of work for ten minutes BEFORE I check my email. Those ten minutes always turn into the full time I have. If I turn to the computer first whatever time I had is frittered away. 
Sometimes limitations result in greater freedom to create. Sounds a little backwards? How many times have you looked at a blank piece of cloth or canvas or sketchbook page and been frozen with fear. Or indecision. Or just plain nothing comes to mind?
What if instead, you give yourself a subject to start with. Or a color. Or a size limitation. My Family Ties series started out as a color study. Red. Using vintage and recycled cloth and lace. Funny that the first three in the series barely had any red in them at all – but I had in my minds eye an idea – a direction – a heading. Nothing says you must stick strictly to your limitations. They are simply a starting point.
I’m getting long winded again – and could go on for ages and never actually get this posted. So I’ll stop for now and solicit your ideas. 
Family Ties

How do you keep the passion to create alive when LIFE gets in the way?
(Remember – I think LIFE can be more important at times – and that’s OK)
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  • Reply
    Catherine Parkinson
    April 13, 2011 at 12:58 am

    For me it has been to stop making excuses because all they were sayingwas my art is not important. I now make myself finish projects before the next one is started, I make small things often and big things less often and I find joy in all the moments life offers. This morning my plans changed with my 2 boys sick. I wanted to make stamps so I got the boys to make one each while I played. They loved it it gave me creqtive time and we all had great results. If I am creative each day i am happy and fufilled.

  • Reply
    Laura Lea
    April 12, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Silly as it sounds I read affirmations daily and usually try to have one to four words to focus on throughout my work day. Working full time and having family can mean less time to do what I want to do. When I start letting life take over and stop creating I feel resentful and unhappy. So when I know I've got a stressful workload or overly full schedule in front of me, I cut back on finishing work, set play dates, and try to learn new things and that keeps my passion and soul nurtured. I am presently art journaling and writing again. I stopped writing when my grandmother died and it took many years to get back that poet's voice. So I'm setting small amounts of time for play dates to learn new things, working at my own pace through The Sketchbook Challenge and Strathmore's Art Journal Workshops. I can't take classes right now, but I can be creative and work with themes, challenges and new techniques. I am building a repertoire for when I find those things that sing and come together for me, and when they do I'll be ready with wings well honed! For now I'm feathering a nest of brightly colored art tools and colorful passionate pages.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I agree with everyone else…a lot of people have become involved with the Sketchbook program…which is a great fall-back…another tool I use is this newly "fadded" Zentangle craze…it's a great relaxer and starts creative windows opening…and I am lucky enough to have a lot of DVD's from Quilting Arts and re-visit my favorite teachers (you included,Lyric) for some inspiration…

    I get to work all day long with fabrics…so it's kind of like the cobblers children…sometimes I have to force myself to work on quilts and other smaller fabric projects!

  • Reply
    Wen Redmond
    April 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Creativity breeds passion but life also happens. Balancing the two is a struggle. I find my art has ebbs and flows but like exercise, if I leave off too long it is difficult to get my swing back. I try to listen to myself more and criticize less. Big lesson!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    For me I find that to get in the "creative mood," I turn to another art outlook. If I suddenly am tired of quilting, I turn to making crocheted jewelry. Sometimes I'll do a series of about three acrylic paintings.
    For some reason that gets me back in the mood to do some more quilting.

  • Reply
    Vivian Helena
    April 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Keeping creativity alive can some times be a step at a time.. Just sew one seam and that grows to another, and finally delight happens…sort of like eating popcorn.. one at a time.Totally absorbing

  • Reply
    April 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Working full-time and other household and family duties does get in the way. I tend to treat playing with fabric as my reward for getting everything else done. That means I may go two or three weeks without playing. I am trying to make time every week by putting playing ahead of housework. I bought a new longarm and it has taken me over 3 weeks to quilt the first small quilt because of all of the other obligations. This last week-end I put quilting first and I am now doing laundry while finishing up class prep for school tomorrow. The house is a mess but I will spend an hour tonight cleaning. The quilt turned out great!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Great question, Lyric. Passion needs nurturing, and Life needs living… so when Life gets in the way of creating, I just let it happen and live for a little bit, all the while storing up ideas and making plans for the creative time that I know will come. I try not to work on anything "important", and make small- very small- artwork that I can complete in a short amount of time. No more "ufo's" in the pile, but complete works. Then I take those playful small ideas and expand on them when the time is right and the "Life" bit has settled down. Pressure to create doesn't leave us with diamonds as it does in nature, but it leaves us with flat, forced, sub standard work which might not be worth the materials used to make it…

  • Reply
    April 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I've had to deal with this for several months now. What I did was engage in The Sketchbook Project that you're a part of and an online Visual Journal workshop. Since these 2 mediums are not my primary focus, I didn't have any hangups or preconceptions…just a naive wide opened learner.

    I have to leave home to go to my studio and on the days I was able to be there I went back into older work with less emotional attachment then current work. That way my hands were moving and I was more relaxed and I think I made better design choices with way less angst.

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