Do you spend most of your time having ideas but not following through?
Is there a dark corner of your home that has a mountain of unfinished projects?
Do you find you are so full of ideas that you cannot focus or sleep?
You aren’t alone
To be honest most of the time I find my creativity overwhelming; last week for example, I visited the library to return one book, I came home with several books; subjects were varied from hat making, dog training and gardening. I spent most of this week researching hats and gardening websites, leaving projects unfinished because the excitement for them has waned.
The biggest problem I face is maintaining enthusiasm for a project until its completed without being de-railled by the next idea.
Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, for example I was walking my dog and I came across some variegated ivy, by the time we made it home the idea developed and I taught a Christmas Wreath workshop out of it. I had to go through a process of trial and error (or playing as I prefer to call it) before I could take that idea forward into a course.
I thought I would share simple steps to ride that wave of enthusiasm, enjoy the making process right through to success!
Writing down an idea means that I don’t lose it;
instead I can keep it on record until I have the time to pursue it.
Some of my best ideas come usually when I am in the middle of doing something else or on a long car journey. I take a notebook with me wherever I go.
Some projects never get beyond this stage, but others develop in time – I might change the method or the materials or from a cushion to a wall hanging. Keeping a log of ideas also reduces the fear that one day my creativity cease at the moment I will need to come up with something.
The important thing is that my ‘new’ idea doesn’t derail my project.
Trying to create my idea while surfing the net – is like trying to be heard at a loud party!
Learn to search with a purpose and tune out distractions
The process starts with a Pinterest board or Flickr for inspiration but I narrow my search just on the object I am making. It doesn’t mean that I can’t ever spend time browsing and meandering around the internet, just not while I am trying to do a project.
A while ago I decided to make a vintage apron after a little research I decided on the design I liked most and I had incorporated elements of other aprons I had seen. I did not stray from aprons, even though my Pinterest feed was full of lovely things – I knew if I wandered off the path I would end up wanting to make a host of other things but essentially be too scattered to do anything.
I look at youtube tutorials, see how others have made them and incorporate their methods and ideas. I revise techniques I haven’t used for a while; there is no right or wrong way to make something, but there are a host of tips and tricks there.
Know when to STOP
Its important to decide when I have researched enough – I usually draw or sketch out what I am making, so that I have a fixed idea and then I stop looking. It is essential: otherwise I will find my ideas get muddled or I can get stuck looking for the ‘next’ apron that might be better and my creative time slot has gone.
From that point on It is vital to stay away from the web until I have finished my project – it calms down the chatter in my head I find I am more focussed on my project idea. It is a relaxing place to be: allowing my mind to focus on just one thing for a while.
“Ignore the helpful voice suggesting I might miss something ..”
I have discovered that there will still be lots on the web waiting for me when my project is complete. It has always surprised me that after a few weeks away from FB it takes me only ten minutes to catch up!
Taking a break helps you to be productive.
There is a theory that your creative mind is often drowned out by your problem solving logical mind, repetitive tasks such as walking or housework occupy the logical mind enough to allow the creative mind to come forward. That is why some the most creative ideas come while you are mopping the floor or in a supermarket queue.
Walking the dog is good for creativity, I need time for my imagination to process my research, sift through the ideas and come up with a practical way to bring my idea into being. Walking is meditative and the physical movement oxygenates the blood helping the brain to function – I let my imagination take flight.
If you feel blocked or over stimulated it is really one of the best cures – right now its a real delight to see a snowdrop with its head bent in the frost, or the daffodil buds forcing their way through.
The internet works at a frenetic pace, connecting with nature and the slow rhythms of the seasons helps to slow down over stimulated minds.
At this point you may want to simply jump in, but you are missing the fun of developing your originality – take time to explore your project.
Let’s assume I am making a strawberry pincushion, I can find 100 strawberry pincushions on the web – if I jump in now my pincushion will be like a photo copy of a photo copy or 101st strawberry pincushion –I need to make my own original version. I print out some of my research, (but I don’t go back to the web), play with the templates, mix them up – take the elements I like, piece them together to come up with my own design – original designs are what gets published .
I might look at strawberries, the shape, the colour, study them. Draw them. Get a feel for the strawberry, make it my own. I need to be off grid for this – its about my strawberry not the 100 net versions.
Crayons can be tremendous fun, or cut up magazine pictures, collages. I am not doing a work of art I am exploring the object. Even great artists do this, it should be sketchy, scratchy – definitely not a finished article – more about observation – or grown up play.
I might gather materials I might use, is it red velvet? Felt? Am I going to use embroidery? What shades of green do I have for the leaves? I rustle through my stash – with a sense of purpose. A bead might be just the right thing for strawberry seeds, or I might find just the right shade of red fabric.
Its so easy to get lost in buying: fabric stores are full of inspiration -in the past I have gone in for a fat quarter and ended up buying fabric for a dress.
Space is finite: filling a studio up with stuff not only reduces space to be creative the stuff saps energy.
My first studio became a jumble; at first it was a great space but as time went on it became harder to find things, I had to move things around each time until eventually I would waste hours simply sorting through my stash. I would walk away not feeling uplifted as I did when I first had the studio but stepping away guilty at my lack productivity.
accumulating things was not making me creative it was making me feel guilty.
So now I make a list, stick to it and promise myself I will go back for the dress fabric I spotted that is temptingly more exciting than making strawberries. (I can jot it down in my notebook or take away a sample and tape it on a page) but I don’t buy it.
I remain focussed but open minded -if I were looking for red velvet and I found some beautiful red wool that sings to me; then I am still creating a strawberry pincushion.
After a trip to a shop if I am wavering, it helps me to look at the collages and sketches once more – my enthusiasm emerges and I usually find the tempting other project fades.
Collage, drawings and sketching will have helped to remain focussed, its time to gather everything together to create don’t be surprised if you have a sudden desire to clean the windows, or re-order your stash because..
Making is scary!
I find my ‘helpful perfection critic’ usually pipes up, listing all the things that could go wrong and why this particular project needs to be ‘PERFECT’.
Its helpful to see the making stage as experimentation
This is the journey – be prepared to have fun its not about getting to the outcome as quickly as possible.
Try different versions, see what works and what doesn’t.
If you are making clothes, do a toile first, if its a painting, use a ‘test’ canvass.
Expect failures, disasters or for things not to do what you expected
Sometimes the most wonderful ‘accidents’ turn into some of the best projects.
Be prepared to problem solve try to enjoy the challenge
If you get stuck then ask a friend or a forum or Facebook group.
You might need to look at youtube tutorials again, but stay on track.
Creating is a process – give yourself lots of time and allow for experimentation
It is easy to lose heart if it isn’t working – it is tempting to put it away…don’t give in!
If you have really hit a block, take some time out usually a walk is the best exercise
Most artists imaginations are far richer than the reality – I may feel that my project has not come up to my expectations, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good.
Accept that you may never be entirely satisfied with what you have made – it is ok.
Show a trusted friend – one that is encouraging, they may love it
If they suggest changes try not to take it personally but use it to direct you, see everything you make as learning
Try not to point out mistakes and accept the imperfections; it is hand made not machine bought.
The Japanese believe that imperfections are uniquely beautiful – imperfections make stamps and coins more valuable.
If its a dress, no-one will notice the wonky seam line until you point it out!
I like this quote:
if you would like to find out more about avoiding procrastination, Bekki at the Creativity Cauldron has some fantastic advice, books and tips to help you tackle your unfinished objects.
I would be interested to read your tips, strategies or struggles please add them in the comments box.
most of all have fun