Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Calling Our Creative Genius

It's like take out, you have to make the call and place your order if you are going to get your dinner!
Jo Bradney still life

My last post really got me thinking about the process of creativity. I was explaining that I am waiting for the right design to ‘come to me’ for a box hinge and legs that I have been dinking around with for the past 6 years. I realized that I didn’t say that I actually have to place an order for the design. I set an intention and put the box off to the side while I am working on actual jobs. I don’t know what I will make for it. I try to clear my mind and let the creative department take over. Being a woodworker, I do my best to balance creativity with skilled manufacturing.

I did start out designing with a drawing. However, in this case, a drawing just won’t suffice. The particular board that the main box is made from has so much personality that a drawing just isn’t going to cut it. It isn’t simply a question of the size of the box and shape of the lid. It has more to do with how the other aspects of the box will co-exist with that crazy grain pattern in the box! The hinge and the legs have to be powerful, delicate, practical and graceful.

I have been paying attention to my creative process for a very long time because in Art School just about every artist gets paranoid about it.  We hear rumors about writers block or artists never being able to top their last success. We become pretty obsessed about finding that magic thing that keeps us making art and running like hell from the things that get us all clogged up and unproductive. The truth is we are all of it. We are human, it’s normal to be in a stuck place, to struggle, and to get through those times and produce. Some people find a formula and stick with it, others meditate, and some find what seems like a deep well of inspiration.

A friend shared a story she heard from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert was interviewing the American Poet, Ruth Stone (who was in her 90’s and still writing!) . . . I’m paraphrasing Gilbert as she explained what Ruth said:

“She would be out in the field working on the farm and feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape like a “Thunderous train of air”. It would come barreling down at her shaking the earth beneath her feet. She knew there was only one thing she could do which was to run like hell to the house, (being chased by a poem), and get to a piece of paper and pencil fast enough so that by the time it reached her she could collect it.

If missed the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and it would continue across the landscape looking for another poet.

At times, she would almost miss it, and she’d be looking and looking for a piece of paper or pencil and the poem would start to pass through her and she’d reach out with her other hand and she would catch the poem by the tail and she would pull backwards into her body and she would have it. In these instances the poem would come out perfect and in tact but backwards from the last word to the first.”

Spoken like a true poet! Gilbert also spoke of creativity and whether or not it is us or if it is something outside of us that some people are able to notice or tap into. Perhaps she is referring to my “Creative Department?”

My favorite author right now, Haruki Murakami, writes:

“I don’t necessarily write down what I am thinking; it’s just that as I write I think about things. As I write, I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my thinking down even deeper paths. No matter how much I write, though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I re-write, I never reach a destination. Even after decades of writing, the same still holds true. All I do is present a few hypotheses or paraphrase the issue. Or find an analogy between the structure of the problem and something else.”

a drawing by Jacquelyn Smith, And The Shadow's Laid Across The Land

Our processes are all so different but one thing remains the same . . . We have to stay open to the creative process, our muse, or whatever it is, to include it in our work and our lives. This is fascinating stuff! We show up, put in our order, do our best work and wait for the “thunderous train of air” to gallop across the landscape so that we can catch it! Are you ready?

click here to buy Haruki Murakami’s memoir: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
click here to see Gilberts bookEat, Pray, Love

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Little Flame

Little Flame
Prize winner in the NWFW 30th Annual Box Show! SOLD