The unusual trick on how to reset your own creative purpose
This is a personal story from the artist’s studio on a lesson she learnt through trying to ‘do it all’.
Hint: It’s not a 21 day creative lockdown challenge
It took an enforced national lockdown combined with my compulsion for serial productivity to make me realise the true creative restoration lying in a lockdown, and it wasn’t as I thought, being more creative.
This is a little tale about starting things. It’s also about quitting and how in this age of do, make, be — giving up and turning your back on something can sometimes be the best thing for your creative wellbeing.
Something giving up can sometimes be the best thing for your creative wellbeing.”
FIRST, SOME BACKGROUND
I decided the best way to contribute to the collective while being a creative in lockdown was to construct a 21 day drawing challenge. It was for artsy types looking for inspiration and maybe a way to make the most of lockdown life. By guiding folks through daily drawing prompts, my challenge offered to help you tap into your deeper wisdom. The challenge was called ‘Drawing Insight, Inside’. I liked it. It had a nice ring to it.
If the 365 tiny landscape painting challenge I completed last year had taught me anything, it’s that small daily pockets of painting opened up an ability to write intuitively far more effortlessly than had I jumped straight to the desire to write, skipping the painting altogether. It was as though one tap opened the other. Except this challenge was accessible to all, not just painters. All you needed was a ball point pen and the everyday objects you would find in your home.
Minimum required input. Possible high-value return.
The other thing a 365 challenge teaches you is a tenacity towards output.
Never. Stop. Making.
“The other thing a 365 challenge teaches you is a tenacity towards output.
Never. Stop. Making.”
I built a page for the challenge on my website. Made artsy, little calendar-style tiles, each day with new drawing and writing prompt posts. I even promised to draw along daily and post my drawings and my own insight on Instagram.
On day 11, instead of posting my drawing of ‘earthenware’ I posted a little card that read ‘Oh fuck it’ and stopped drawing. It felt a bit assy. Also sassy.
Sometimes the thing you have to do for you will be a disappointment for someone else.
I explained my reasoning in the post and continued to post the daily drawing prompts on my website for anyone who had started and wanted to also finish.
For the remainder of phase one of our 21 day lockdown I did nothing creative. I didn’t return to painting. I didn’t do any drawing. No colouring. No journaling. No blog posts.
No more #isolateandcreate.
I just stopped, totally overcome with compulsion and obligation. What ensued was unintentionally deepening my lockdown. I was now not only on house arrest, but I was on art arrest too. I had put myself in ‘creative lockdown’.
I then experienced the following
There was no agenda behind this. It was just the next available clarity towards an unknown horizon of feeling creative again.
Here’s what I discovered in the process of a creative lockdown
When you close the taps to all your creative habits, you might tighten the ones that have been profuse. But you also seal the drippy leaks, those taps that had become outlets of habit. Habitual creative outlets can often transition from a free flow to a trickle without you being fully aware of the change in pressure.
“One calls places where water escapes without truly nourishing the soil, a drain.”
Keep all your well taps trickling and you’ll have only a shallow layer of mucky water fit for breeding mosquitos at your creative disposal.
As the volume of water in your well of artistry — your creative work — begins to dwindle, the pressure reduces and with it the potency.
Instagram was one of those taps, and indeed traps, for me. It was as though there was some sort of creative suction happening. I felt compelled to pour into it.
In order to appease the pull, we begin to pour all kinds of non-relevant-to-your-true-work additives into the well.
One calls places where water escapes without truly nourishing the soil, a drain.
And what I longed to reconnect with was the feeling of creativity pushing from within.
This is the simple mastery of a creative lockdown. Close off everything and the well begins to fill again. Once full, your now abundant creative font will swell from within and pour from the taps it is meant to pour from.
So, if you’re feeling more on the scale of #isolateandcapitulate, my advice is some simple isolate…and separate, isolate and wait.
Like listening to the deep ocean’s churning, you’ll begin to hear the creative pursuits whispered to you from your depths, that strange sentient place, where the likes of whales swim.
I’m heading back into my painting studio, where I keep re-realising, I still belong and where the the deep work ends and begins.
PS: The drawing insight challenge is still something I’m proud to have created and will be available under the resources section of my website should you ever have the desire or capacity to do such a challenge. My unexpected insight on this journey is simply that you don’t have to finish or even start something just because you once did and just because it’s available.
Want to make sure you don't miss any of my posts?
Sign up to my monthly museletters.