There is a magic in the creative process. When I am totally in the “zone,“ it seems as though some divine force plants a seed of inspiration into my psyche & leads me on a journey to bring from the ethos something new & different into the world. Generally I need to be in a space where I am fully present- at least with my own thoughts. I don’t necessarily have to be in my studio. Often inspiration comes on a walk or doing something as innocuous as washing dishes or weeding the garden. At this point it is important for me to get the idea either in process immediately or at least written down, for inspiration can be as ephemeral as fairy dust in a breeze.
Sometimes I must plant a seed myself if nothing has been offered from above. I keep a list of concepts that fascinate me. For example, a few of my favorites are migration, germination, metamorphosis & salmon. I will make a list of every sub-concept I can think of that has to do with that topic, pick a few & then tie them together into a piece. The Illustrations that are shown in this post are from a triptych titled “The Spirit of Ghost Ranch.” In these mixed media pieces, my goal was to embody different aspects of Ghost Ranch Retreat Center in Northern New Mexico where I visit to take art classes & spiritually recharge most summers.
Then there are times I must “prime the pump” for ideas. One of my favorite hunting grounds is “Pinterest.” I can get inspiration from other artists & pin them to my own “board” for reference https://www.pinterest.com/wildntotions/. One of the beauties of the Pinterest algorithm is that it will suggests similar pins that may be of interest to you, leading you down a rabbit hole of endless possibilities. I can also prowl about blogs, and storefront galleries as well. My go to guide when I am in a rut is the book, “Steal Like an Artist,” By Austin Kleon. It’s maybe an hour read and so very encouraging
and inspirational. If you need a tow truck, this is your go to guide. I refer to it over and over again.
For the most part I work intuitively. I just start putting down a scrap of paper, a stencil, a swish of paint, sentence , or start to work a lump of clay as bait for my muse. Once I start down the creative path, I follow the breadcrumbs that she has left to tell me where to go next. I know that if I am tired or stressed it not the right time for creative work- just like you don’t plant tender seedlings in bad weather. Now it’s time to do something mindless & let my subconscious work in the background.
It’s all a mesmerizing journey of faith but it works- if you give yourself permission to let go & play.
Odd things can happen in your 60s. I feel like that kind of yucca pant that blooms once a century or a prehistoric seed given the right environment germinates and starts to grow. All of a sudden this last year I felt like I had to write. It started out with an occasional poem, then frequent poems to some short essays to now a blog. Probably what has contributed to this perfect set of conditions is now seeing more time behind me than before me- the need to document my experience on this planet. Then there’s the fact that this winter in Oregon has been so cold I cannot seem to motivated to work out in a ceramics studio that is heated only by space heaters. I needed a creative outlet. Whatever the reason, here I am, a writer.
In the past, I have written for classes & have kept a journal. But write for the sake of writing at 4 AM? Years ago I would have shut my eyes, pulled up the covers and waited for the impulse to pass. Experience has told me though, that unless I heed my heart, its whispering will become shouting and that ultimately leads to unrest and irritability.
This is the start of my writing journey. It’s surprisingly one of the most grounding things I have ever undertaken. I have benefited greatly from the writings of others. Now I have opened myself up to critical eyes but also to those that will benefit as well. It’s worth the risk.
You just start.
There is no perfect time.
You are weary of an idea pursuing you & tugging on your soul, so rather than run harder you stop in your tracks, turn around, shake your idea’s hand & say, OK. I will give you 15 minutes of my day NOW. No running out & buying a new pen, notebook, paintbrush, canvas, computer or whatever distraction you may deem necessary. Just sit down & give you & your idea a chance to know each other better.
Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese mystic once said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”So true, but what he neglected to say was that first step is the hardest of the entire journey. On the flip side, it is the most liberating. Your 15-minute appointment with your idea will probably extend to an hour. Then you can hardly wait for the next one. Congratulations- you are on your way.
This scenario is exactly how this blog started on a beat-up legal pad I scrounged from a drawer in my desk. I was ultimately tackled with the idea that I needed to share my stories of life on my creative path, often a lonely one. Hopefully, it can help you, dear reader, on yours. In the process, I had to thumb my nose at my greatest nemesis, perfection, and just start. This is my first step.