Friday, January 9, 2015

Permission and Initiative

Many people are drawn to the act of making. They want to paint a picture, sew a quilt, knit a scarf, write a novel, or throw a pot. This urge goes back to childhood, and as children we made without hesitation creating pictures, toys, stories, and songs. As adults, we are much more hesitant, and our fear holds us back. We may be afraid of not being able to do it at all, or we may be afraid that we can’t do it well. We may feel that we have no ideas or that we don’t know how to start. Unfortunately, many of us give into the doubts as we hem and haw, complain and moan about not being talented, not being good, or not being artists. These are only excuses - ways of saying that we are not allowing ourselves to make and create. So, many of us just sit idly by as if waiting for someone to tell us that it’s alright - it’s ok for us to create. And so, many of us just sit and wait and never make.

However, that urge can linger. We can feel the draw of the clay or the allure of the yarn, and it keeps pulling at us. Finally we can’t stand it any longer, and give in. We give ourselves permission to initiate something - to get started. For many of us, we look at what other people have made for inspiration. We think how great it would be to make what these other people are making. There’s a safety factor there. We see that it can be done and it has been done, so we might, just might, be able to do it, too.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be inspired by others and to want to learn from them, but we have to be careful because we can easily fall into a trap. When we look to the things that other people make, we can feel like we can only do it their way - that there is a right way and a wrong way. We get caught up in doing it exactly right - exactly like that person, and there’s the trap. Whether we follow step-by-step directions or we simply mimic the work, we give ourselves permission to copy someone else. Why? It’s safe, everything is figured out, and we don’t have to come face-to-face with our massive doubts. We started AND finished something. We made it, but we didn’t create it. We didn't come up with the idea. We didn’t develop the process or the sequence. We merely followed the recipe that someone figured out or copied their example.

If creativity is about coming up with something new that has value, how is copying someone - doing exactly what they do - creative? If we really want to step up our game - if we really want to initiate something that is uniquely our own, we need to give ourselves permission to do more than just copy other people. We need to be open to our doubts, our fears, our hopes, and our dreams.

To that end, we are the only ones who can give ourselves the initiative and permission to create.

We must give ourselves permission to:
be vulnerable
not know what we’re doing
not be perfect
express what we feel
open up

We must find the initiative to:
get off our lazy butts
break out the tools
make the effort
trust our own ideas
learn from others
not to merely copy
accept where we are
lean into our fear
make a mess


Renee Dowling said...

So well said! Great words to cause one to think about creativity and originality! Thanks again for sharing your thoughtful insights!

Eric said...

Renee, thank you for the comment. I've been thinking a lot about what makes us different from a lot of what's out there, and I keep coming back to this idea of process vs. product. I really hope that we are teaching people the process of creativity and art making.

Anonymous said...

This is wonderfully said! And, something I am struggling with right now. Love looking at various sites and others' work for technique/ideas. Then I sit down and either don't do anything because I am so "overwhelmed" with what something should/shouldn't look like or, I try to create something and it is not my own. How does a beginner break through to find their own style???

Eric said...

I think being inspired by other people and taking things from the way they work is good. We just want to be careful not to completely adopt their style and imagery. I think we borrow and steal from other artists, taking certain things into our way of working. Slowly these things meld into our unique style.