Jamie left the following statement on my Facebook wall:
I need your advice Julie! I am really having trouble getting inspired to make my own art...I spend hours reading other people's inspirational or educational books, blogs, Etsy, magazines but just get the feeling that my work won't measure up and I just don't know how to restart my artsy battery despite having lots of well intentioned supplies and an artroom. Help!!
This is something that I think absolutely everyone who does something creative feels. Those feelings of being inadequate; of not measuring up to the amazing things that everyone else is doing can be completely paralyzing. I have been there. And it's a funny contrast. On the one hand you read and read and consume all this information and all these pretty pictures but they just make you feel less and less capable rather than excited and inspired. What's a girl to do?
Well, I don't think there's any one-size-fits-all solution, but here's a little bit of advice on the kinds of things that work for me (I am very motivated by forced creating, so a lot of these are in that arena):
- Take a class -- in person is best but online will do. Knowledge = Confidence. But taking a class is different from reading a book or watching a YouTube video, even though those both give you knowledge. A class inherently comes with a community. And a group of people who are all trying to learn the same things, going through the same struggles, and triumphing, can be very comforting. The reason I say that in person classes are best is because you are forced to create in that class. An online class allows you to watch the video or read the handout and not necessarily do anything about it.
- Join a challenge -- something that has a deadline and forces you to create. Being on design teams was the best thing for my productivity because I had to create even when I didn't feel like it or didn't like the materials. And through many, many, many ugly mistakes, I finally found my own way. You can also create your own challenge! Several years ago I challenged myself to create one scrapbook page a week for a year. This was at a time that I rarely scrapbooked -- maybe once every month or two. That self-imposed challenge changed my life. Seriously. It helped me get into the idea of creating more often (creating as a habitual part of my weekly life).
- Sit in your art room and play. Set a kitchen timer for ten minutes and play with your supplies with no finished project or goal in mind. Cut up paper. Decorate a tag. Paint a metal embellishment. Just play and see what happens. Do it every day for a month and I think you'll discover that *you* will start to emerge! Sometimes I think it's the pressure of a pretty finished project that holds us back. But if you refuse to finish anything, if you refuse to have a goal in mind, and if you refuse to do anything but play -- you short circuit all those perfection demons we're hard wired to have.
- Go on a media diet. I haven't quite mastered this one, but I'm working on it. Stop reading blogs. Step away from the craft books. Let yourself just be with your own creativity and see where it takes you. It's possible that the little flame of creativity in you is being smothered instead of fed by all those pretty projects from other people. I used to turn to Google Reader every morning and see the 100+ blogs I kept tabs on. But reading those blogs every day I found that I didn't feel good about myself. So now I have a few favorites I keep track of, but I let the rest pass me by. It's hard to do that in these days of Pinterest and Tumblr when everyone seems to be gathering inspiration from the internet. But we're not all built the same way. If it doesn't make you feel good, don't do it!
- Be okay with sucking. Remember that just as children have to fall down a lot in order to learn to walk, we have to stumble a bit as artists before we can create comfortably! You just have to do it and do it and make creating a daily or weekly habit and then one day, out of the blue, you'll realize that you're walking -- that your creative shins don't hurt from falling because you haven't fallen in a long time. But in order to get there, you have to be okay with making things that don't quite work, that you don't love. But remember that all these things -- these ugly not quite right things -- will be the foundation that you build your empire of creativity on top of! I make terrible things all the time. And they make me happy because I know that something good is coming if I keep at it.
I made a little something to remind myself that I need to be brave:
P.S. Read this article by Roger Ebert about drawing!