I leapt on this old steampunk barbecue at the recycling centre. ‘It has to be ours,’ I said . ‘But what are we going to do with it?’ He asked. I scowled.
That was not the point.
Spontaneity isn’t always easy. Making a decision has implications…The itch to try something new, is often swiftly squashed by our comforting, familiar fears. What if it doesn’t work?
Lets just stick to the plan…
Hide in the familiar, comfortable place.
Sometimes a plan need a little feeding from our old friend intuition.
As someone wise once said.
We often feel safer doing things in the way they’ve always been done around us. Conditioned by what and who we see succeeding. Stepping off the path is a risk.
What if something different goes wrong ?
What if it can’t be undone?
What if people think I’m weird/stupid/crazy/ridiculous?
What if I fail?
We know what resonates. The crucial details that make our perfect day; our sense of style and how our clothes make us feel, what and who we include in our time; what we need to feel accomplished by nightfall. If we get up early or lie in, if we like vibrant or subtle. Establishing a workable, happy life routine is a necessary grounding for all the spontaneous variety of decisions we can then explore.
With so much choice it can all feel a little overwhelming. It can be hard to listen amongst so much noise. But, deep down, we already know what we need in any given task. And everybody approaches a project in their own unique way. This process is like a fingerprint.
As a foundation student at Canterbury Art college, a million years ago, I was part of a class who had been given a task to build a bridge from found objects. The young tutor enthusiastically roused competition from table to table, raising the adrenaline and pressure . I was enjoying the task, thinking it through, balancing objects and materials, measuring, constructing, gluing and planning. Looking up I saw that there were other tables finished, cobbled together bridges, clumsy, but fulfilling the brief. I said I needed a few more minutes, and reddening excused my mess with a self-deprecating remark about being too much of a perfectionist.. In the silence of the room, as all my fellow students watched, the tutor laughingly dismissed my efforts and declared that my table was most definitely not that of a perfectionist.
I heard the shallow laugh I joined in with, while my eyes welled up.
Of course, moments come and moments go, and many are our not intended to be cruel. Often a comment or judgement says more about the judge, than than the person or object being attacked. But words and the feelings words spark, are huge. This particular moment of humiliation sealed an empathy for my future students, which I hope I can say I took to my classroom. Shining a light on our faults when we are learning and seeking and trying out new versions of our selves, is an anathema to growth and exploration. Embarrassment is simply horrible. It can take many years of getting to understand ourselves, through mistakes, right and wrong decisions, trying out what was once scary, to find and keep a hold of a creative way best suited to you. An individual’s unique process is not for anyone to ridicule, judge or question. There are so many choices and possibilities available, it is essential to retain our instinct to filter and recognise the right fit for us.
Think about how you get from germ of an idea to fruition. Depending on the dominance of each of your brain hemispheres, your creative process might be a fairly organised or wonderfully chaotic.
But the process is your process
Where do you start? And do you, like most of us, go round in circles?
I am a gatherer. Instinctive, chaotically organised, excited by details, wanting to share what I see, treasure a moment, capture it’s magic. I find I work best alone. Usually in the morning, usually with half an ear on an audio book to distract my judgy brain, usually with coffee, in my studio, but sometimes on my lap in front of a Netflix series. I love to draw, adjust, try things out, get into the zone, or if I am cooking or planting things ; (the recipe or flowerbed) instinctively. Instructions in general – I am poor at; but that doesn’t mean I don’t absorb many pieces of information through the pages of my vast library. Who doesn’t love a beautiful cookbook? I trust my hands and eyes, the feeling and the voice of my many inspiring friends and heroes.
In the zone we feel and sense and don’t watch time.
Creative juices flow and thoughts land like bees on flowers. Music plays and we are timeless, scraps of visions find each other and sing in harmony, birds sing, all is beautiful…
Until the spell is broken
In the zone we can let ourselves go the extra distance in our work, free from constraints and inner voices. We can stop and start, get pleasantly distracted, tune in to what we feel and hear and flow.
Interrupted, by the needs and questions of other people, pressing tasks and time constraints, chores to be done, demands and expectations; we are pulled back to reality; to a vulnerability, to a human state once more.
For many years in my own life I lived through criticism, never quite reaching my happy place in my work, but always feeding it scraps. Like a hardy plant on a desk, that was watered occasionally, it never quite died but new leaves weren’t exactly flourishing. All my energy and planning and ideas went into the teaching in my classroom or my stepson’s school projects, and of course bringing up my daughter. I painted murals on the walls of my house, not on canvas. Doubt hid in the cracks of my artist’s brain, as I was learning the art of life.
But it was o.k.
Those drops of feeding my process I had managed to continue with, sketching when nobody was awake, watching Art films and painting in my lunch break at work because I was on crutches and the staff room was downstairs, they were bliss. I held the bigger picture in my mind. I watched inspired by my students painting theirs.
Pressure to produce a piece of Art, pressure to show it half way through it’s gestation, pressure to perform in a world of talented makers and Artists; all these fears crush the spontaneity and wonder of purely enjoying creativity. Opening ourselves up to make Art renders us vulnerable and this can be a scary thing. A classroom or a studio should be at least initially where a voice is found, not drowned.
My now significant other understands that being banned from my studio mid production, isn’t personal ! Allowing me space for creating until the work is ready, is a gift he has no idea how grateful I am for. We all need a space where our mind can put it’s slippers on.
Understanding our patterns of behaviour is liberating . Over the last eighteen months the difference in working environments for me could not have been more extreme. Although I have always carved out a corner to work, my shed studio here and it’s calm outlook is by far my favourite. However, it can be the lack of facilities that prompts a burst of flow. In our temporary place last year , limited time alone in the morning, limited space in the tiny cabin; forced a magical intense creative window and a huge body of work was made. Having carried on working and making throughout I can vouch for time not limiting your experiences or skills. New students in my groups are often
How do we tap into our inner voice ?
If we plan well, we organize our routines we boost productivity, deal with our schedules in the ever-busy human world and get stuff done. Staying here can be productive and safe
This sweet spot is a gift. From a place of relative mental calm we can allow our minds and ideas, projects and journeys a little escape. Then it can get interesting. A blank canvas.
Feel the fear
Spontaneity is very liberating, tuning into your inner wisdom so you feel safe, step out of the comfort zone and it might lead to a host of friendships, projects and potential. If a road leads nowhere, don’t park, keep driving.
Being spontaneous sets you free, gives life a jolt without any external constraints. Allowing new explorations to happen strengthens what already is. This is the part where your blank canvas becomes a vibrant collage.
Try not to over-think and let the familiar anxieties in. When living spontaneously, we aren’t thinking of what we’ve done and what we’re going to do, we live for and in the moment.
If we don’t think about the potential of things going wrong before jumping into something (and it won’t be anything bad if we have our wisdom set up), we won’t miss the casual, fun, opportunities life throws at us.
Over-riding the carefully planned out version of an activity can sometimes lead to a more memorable and lovely path, unexpected and new.
Seeing a positive outcome builds self belief, and confidence and the more you try, fail, try, find joy, find what you love; the richer life becomes.
Art is all about spontaneity. Almost every discipline from painting to dance to writing requires the freedom to explore ideas and thoughts emotionally, visually, without constraint. Any form of creativity can become self-healing because we get what is inside to blossom and grow. .
Intuition gets stronger with practice, honing our decisions in every aspect of life
By developing our powers of randomness and intuition, we feel more ‘us’, have more to say because it comes from a place of knowing that we trust, our own.
The perfect life/picture/body/relationship/home has no mysterious finishing line. That dot on the horizon is called a vanishing point for a reason. Notice the scenery, as you travel, and remember in toughest times that there are corners and sanctuaries to nurture your self in, recharge and reboot; until such times as you can feel you are you again.
There is more to life and Art than having a plan. Loosen the power fear has over change and trust in your quiet strong intuitive knowing. Take away the need to prove
Pull out all the stuff you love to draw/cook/paint/plant/knit/write with. Start with a small idea, look at a source like Pinterest and just play. Turn the music on and the timer off. Don’t think, be open to learning , be mindful and feel gratitude, be connected to the present moment. Give yourself permission to just be happy.
Trusting our Instinct
The blueprint of our ability to trust in the world around us is laid out at an early age. our capacity for self belief, is dependent on how we have been conditioned to think and if we have evidence of success. As a seven year old we know most of the important things about ourselves but have no skills of articulation or life skills to prove our intuition. Sometimes it can feel our adult lives are a journey away and back again to the instincts of child. Learning how to play in our work is crucial to tapping into those lost skills.
Take a single step, a line or a page a day, a brushmark or a stitch
Be patient and kinder to yourself than you have learned to tolerate
The creative process is a slinky slippery thing.
Try and hold her too tightly she slips through your
fingers and is gone when you open your palm
For some she is silence
For some she is music
For some she is a frantic scrawl
For some a blank page
For some she flows from a new ink pen
For some she is a battered old school pencil
For some she is midnight
For some she is dawn
She is air and sound and in the gaps of the day
For some she is a craving
For all she is a need
She is forever just disappearing
You and your work still exists if nobody sees it.
Don’t wait for the perfect time