Cultivating Creativity

Thinking about the last 24 hours gives me a warm feeling of personal fulfillment realized. I’m slowly reclaiming unstructured time for myself and rediscovering how my creativity thrives.

Pencil sketches of two faces. One is a black woman looking up to the right. One is an elderly Asian man looking directly at you.
Face studies, 6/22/19

I started this post nearly two years ago when I read an article about how busyness impedes creativity. That alone should tell you something. There is always another task, always a request outstanding, always someone who needs something, and I’m all-too-willing to oblige.

…when every free moment—at work, in line, at a red light—you’re reaching for your phone. Your brain’s attentional system becomes accustomed to constant stimulation; you grow antsy and irritable when you don’t have that input. You’re addicted to busyness. 

Derek Beres, “Being busy is killing our ability to think creatively”

Even as I write this, I can feel a tightness in my chest – more emotional than physiological. It is like my body wants to deeply exhale and let the mental waves wash away the stress. But it can’t, even though I don’t really feel stressed tonight. There is some build up that is going to take a bit longer to clear out. Like barnacles on the hull of a ship that hasn’t left harbor in a long time, if we want to stick with the marine metaphor.

My weekend epiphanies

Setting a small creative goal, like filling one page of my sketch book with face studies, gave me a way to track my growth as an artist instead of setting a large ambiguous (and stressful) goal.

Running with the dog at 8:30am actually made my day so much better – exercise endorphins for the win. I came home at 10am and was ready to do almost anything in the yard or around the house. I hadn’t had that much energy in a while.

Taking care of my garden is a lot like taking care of my mental health. Removing dead blossoms from the plants allows new ones to grow. Giving recently planted plants extra water and fertilizer to helps them adjust to change.

Photograph of vegetable starts recently planted in a raised planter bed.
Our vegetable patch

Creative projects are not created equal. Some are blissfully mindless and some require geometry and calculus. I sat down to work on a quilt with hand embroidery that I started in December, but I felt too restless to calmly embroider. I was still on the post-run and post-gardening high, and it seemed like a better time to tackle the mentally taxing creative tasks like cutting out fabric for my next project.

Photo of a sewing table, close up on a pair of scissors, with fabric and other fabric-cutting tools in the distance.

I need an extra push to clean up after I finish a project. I tend to throw myself into a task, and then run out of energy when it is time to clean up. This happens after cooking, it happened today after Greg and I planted our vegetable garden, and it nearly happened after I got all the pattern pieces cut out.

The time I took tonight to recycle the pattern scraps, refold the leftover fabric, and put away my cutting tools will benefit me later this week when I can just sit down and start sewing. (I also can start making breakfast immediately tomorrow morning, instead of sifting through the pile of dishes in the sink to find the cookware I need.)

Pile of pattern pieces for a future sewing project.

It has been so long since I have cut fabric for sewing a new garment. It has been too long since I sat down with my sketchbook to practice a specific art skill. These things fulfill me and I didn’t put myself first for a while.

I will leave you with a photo of my dog. An unburdened soul who just does whatever makes him happy, and who wants you to be happy too. 🥰🦊

Large orange and white dog with upright ears and a curled tail, standing on a wall next to a watering can and among flowers.

One thought on “Cultivating Creativity

  1. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy more.
    I have been letting myself enjoy having a garden this year. Not stressing about stuff not turning out (no roses for jam? Not one?) or not getting it all done in one go. I can gift myself that time to do a little every day.
    I am lucky to have this. Lucky to see your drawings. And the dog.
    Thank you.

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