I’ve been thinking a lot recently about creating.
I used to be a maker. I say used to, because these days the most I make of anything is dinner and one knitted sock after a year if I’m lucky. I read, I watch, I consume and it feels like I’m doing nothing, because I am.
Have you ever been in a creative rut? It sucks right? Mine feels like it’s been going on for years.
I used to create – zines, costumes, theatre, indie films, puppets, assemblage art, badly knitted scarves that curled in on themselves and so on. But the point is, I made things. They weren’t perfect, far from it, but I made them. I tried things, and created for the sheer enjoyment of it.
Something happened a long the way though. After finishing theatre school with mounting bills to be paid and the knowledge that any theatre work that would come my way would be unpaid to begin with, I panicked and jumped right back into office work. Albeit it was for Disney, and the UK Head Office was a wonderfully creative environment to work in.
My Disney pay cheque however afforded me the ability to live free of the stress some of my friends faced after graduation. I didn’t have to scrounge to make rent, pay for food, and could buy a round of pints for my mates at the pub. It also allowed me the financial freedom to pursue my creative work with the Lab Theatre Collective in the evenings and weekends.
This seemed like an ideal compromise – work a 9 to 5 office job, and in my spare time create. Because I wouldn’t have to depend on my art to support me financially, I could make what I want without altering or changing things in order to secure funding or arts grants.
And this worked for a while, and really could still be working if I wasn’t caught in a trap of my own making.
So what happened?
Destructive, clawing self-doubt, the kind which paralyzes you.
I lost that magic invincibility and do anything spirit prevalent in youth. And hell I’m far from old, but after talking with several other friends who are artists of a similar age, they too spoke of having experienced this as well at some point.
We’re constantly inundated with amazingly brilliant things all the time, so much so that it can be daunting sometimes to even begin. We get caught up in a need for immediate perfection which is never attainable and give up before we even start because of self-doubt. And it’s something that’s crept up on us as we’ve gotten bogged down with other things in life, leaving us with a sort of wariness to expose ourselves and put something out there that could be a bit crap. The fear of mediocrity takes hold.
But how can you ever overcome that by doing nothing at all?
It really goes back to the old “Quantity VS Quality” story of the pottery teacher found in Art & Fear.
Basically the parable goes that a teacher splits their class in two, telling half the class that they’re expected by the end of the year to have produced one perfect pot. The other half of the class is told they have to produce 50lbs worth of pots. Whether the pots are good or not doesn’t matter.
And whose pots were the best? Well, by the end of the year, when it came to grading, the pots of the highest quality were the ones produced by the group being graded on quantity.
If we agonize over perfection, we don’t take action, where as if we just do it, we’ll certainly make mistakes, but we’ll learn from them and continue on and improve.The other night I was re-reading a friends cut & paste DIY zine from ’95, as well as a few of the ones I’ve worked on spanning from the early 90’s to the early 00’s. They’re rough, and there are mistakes, but they’re awesome. They give an insight into a vibrant world, capturing a moment and telling a story of that time period. They’re quite beautiful in their imperfections.
I think reading these old zines was like a well needed cosmic kick in the ass from my teenage self.
I miss creating. I miss making things. And I’m tired of being pulled under by my own insecurity of things not being as perfect as I imagine they should be.
In my bookcase gathering dust for some years now is a beautiful tarot deck. I lovingly picked it out when in San Francisco 7 years ago with the intention of learning how to use and read them. Years passed, dust particles grew into dust bunnies, and finally into chompy bite-y dust monsters. Cleaning the shelves last week brought me face to face with the lonely deck.
On the weekend, faffing about on my own, a tweet from Veronica Varlow caught my eye. Veronica, who I met briefly during The Blogcademy two years ago has been on a creative journey of her own, realizing her dream to shoot her film Revolver. Her determination over the years to see it through is hella inspiring, and it makes me all kinds of ridiculously happy to see someone who has been chasing their dreams to succeed in them.
Short-story-long: Veronica teaches an online weekly tarot class called The Parlour. I decided that now was as good a time as any to stop procrastinating and start learning something new I’ve wanted to for ages.
Given it was the last Parlour for 2014, I kind of slipped into an already well established group, loitering virtually at the back of the room. As part of the class there was a reading for the coming year and given the number of us, several cards were drawn and presented with A-D types one could identify with.
The Fool. And the Chariot. 2 key tarot cards for the upcoming year.
New Years brings new beginnings, a time to regain the spontaneity & free spirit of the Fool I’ve been missing. The Chariot heralds overcoming opposition through confidence and control.
These images are from a performance I directed and created several years ago now based on the Orpheus & Eurydice myth, from the perspective of Eurydice in the underworld. I’d love to revisit this story and keep working on it, nothing has been stopping me, but myself.
Create, make things, and don’t wait for it to be perfect. A lesson I’ll be taking into 2015 with me, as I hope to regain my confidence in creating.
What are you hoping to achieve in the coming year?