Sparking creativity

If you were hoping for this blog post to be about inhabiting liminal spaces, I must apologize up front. That post seems to be inaccessible to me. I tried writing it four times and it wouldn’t cohere. Oh, the irony.

So, I’m going to talk about creativity because Glendon Mellow (aka flyingtrilobite on Twitter) got me thinking about it. I have always been amused to hear writers when they say people ask them where they get their ideas. I think if you sit around and watch tv all day, you might have a hard time coming up with ideas, but if you live life, it seems to me ideas should be easy to come by.

So, what does that mean? For me, I know that I learn by talking. Some of my best inspirations have come from conversations I’ve had with people. If I’m looking for a creative spark, I know certain topics will get the juices flowing: science, marine topics, outer space, and textiles. Because I talk so much, people will sometimes bring me ideas. It’s great!

I go to lectures and classes. I’m a member of two local quilt guilds and I go to the meetings no matter who is speaking because I never know if someone will inspire me. I’ve had people say things that hit right to the core even though their style and possibly even their technique are of no interest to me! Same with classes. You never know how a technique might be used in your work if you don’t try it first. Just because the teacher uses dots to make cats doesn’t mean you can’t use dots to make ice cream cones (or something along those lines :))

Sometimes I will try to use a different thread or fabric or yarn to see what I can do with it. I also make challenges to myself and invite my friends to join me. Don’t ask me about the things I have in my studio that I haven’t even tried to play with yet. It’s why I started my own little group and boy are we having fun!

Someone told me a while ago to try doing things “the other way.” So, try being the driver or passenger. Try eating left handed. Or drawing (if you draw — I don’t:)). I’m a contra dancer, so I’ve started switching roles during a dance, something I had not been able to do before a year or so ago. I think it did something to my brain because I can now do it easily!

I try to make sure I do things that get me outside my head. I walk with friends once a week. I dance once a week. I sing once a month. These are routines that are built into my schedule that I feel improve my quality of life.

In the end, being creative is all about expressing the subjects that excite me. Personally, I’m not excited by traditional landscapes. I had been quilting for 11 years before it occurred to me that my subjects didn’t have to be traditional. I’m not sure why it took me so long. I was probably distracted by my kids as I’ve never been one to stick with the traditional.

I think, in the end, one just has to find things that excite them and pursue those exciting bits. How do you challenge yourself?

(ADDING THIS BIT: Very important: REGULAR PRACTICE. Good writers go and write for X many minutes/hours or whatever it is a day. If you want to be creative, you have to do it. Not all of us have the luxury of doing it every day, but for me, even if I’m not in my studio, I still spend part of the day thinking over ideas.

Oh, which leads me to another point! Stretch yourself. Share your work. Submit it places. Apply to things you love even if you think it’s not going to happen.)

As a reward for reading all of this, have a couple pictures of art quilts I made for the upcoming Art of Neuroscience exhibit I will be part of.  It is part of the much larger Neuroscience Convention and will be from November 15-19.  Apparently there are two sessions open to the public: one on Saturday at 11 am to 1 pm and on Tuesday, November 19, from 3-5 pm, there’s a forum on science funding that is also open to the public. I know that Michele Banks will be there with scarves and her fabulous watercolors. I am not sure which other artists will be there at this time.

These are roughly 9X12 inches.  The first is obvious, the second was inspired by a picture of synapses.



14 thoughts on “Sparking creativity

  1. Reblogged this on . A.K. Anderson and commented:
    Ways I push myself to create: Getting out of my head, as this post talks about, is one of the ways (walking, hiking, biking, running, exploring). I also like art work and challenges that aren’t my chosen craft (drawing, cartooning, singing, acting, dancing, painting, sewing, etc). And I let myself be a beginner so I can be gentle with my mistakes and lessons learned.

    • ❤ ❤ Wow, thank you.

      And yes, I agree that working in a different medium can be very helpful! I think textile artists have more options open to them than fiction writers, but even there, one could switch genres if all other creative endeavors happened to be anathema.

      I practiced aikido a long time ago and one of the things we learned about was Beginner's Mind (Shunryu Suzuki). I have tried to apply this along the way. I find it helpful in staying open to new ideas (when I can remember :))

      • I learned about Beginner’s Mind in Yoga and later through reading about Buddhism, but it’s very useful.

        I grew up feeling like I had to “pick one” of the creative pursuits that I enjoyed. That I was in danger of becoming a “Jack of all trades / master of none” and that if I wanted to achieve mastery, I would have to give up on all of these other forms of art that I so enjoyed. Took me a long time to realize that this is utter hogwash, and that one feeds the other.

      • Absolutely! At least it’s true for me. When I get tired/burned out from one creative activity, it helps to switch. I actually have a part two of this post brewing. I didn’t know I had so much to say! Also thinking about your post about dressing like a serious artist!

    • I agree with the idea of going to lectures and classes even if you think their work is nothing like mine and what will I learn. I find when I do these things I always get some amazing inspirations to use materials in a different way or with a different technique.

      • I have been amazed at what I can walk away with if go to a lecture with an open mind. Sometimes I learn that a technique is not for me and that’s worth exploring too, but often I get some insight or inspiration from the broader point of the workshop. Thanks for commenting!

    • Thanks! Which also goes to prove that just because you don’t love something you create, doesn’t mean other people won’t. I don’t always translate things in my head in a way that excites me, but no one else sees that vision. We all bring our own perspective to the world!

  2. When I taught writing, the students frequently could not think of anything to write about. One effective way to get them going was to ask them to try a “voice” other than their own to tell the tale. It was amazing how much difference it could make if they could write as if they were a leaf on a tree overhearing a conversation. It usually brought the room to an excitement level. They could not wait to share and to get and give ideas for re-writing. I think your ideas for sparking creativity fall into this category… try a new angle, or a new view point, or a new genre! Thanks for your inspiring blog!

    • Wow, that’s awesome! I am thrilled by the comments here, about how people get juiced up. I can tell it’s going to give me new inspiration! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. I love what you said. For years, I’ve done things like writing with my left hand (I’m right handed; started writing left handed in grade school), showered with my eyes closed, etc. But you’ve also reminded me that I need to do other unusual things more often.

    I love your work, which also talks to the biologist in me (past degree and career). Keep up the good work and good luck with the exhibit!


    • Thanks so much! Glad you could find some inspiration too. I don’t mean to say I use all these methods, but I found dancing both parts of the dance during a single dance a good exercise in brain plasticity and am sure if I tried other things it might jog new things loose!

  4. Your art is so inspiring and creative! The creativity thoughts are really right on and so important to read and re-read! Thanks for sharing your fabulous work and mind!

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