(read Part 1 posted below this one)
For those of you who don’t know me, I feel obligated to give you some background information about myself. I am incredibly hard on myself. It’s one of my greatest skills. If there were a career for beating myself up, I would be a millionaire. If there were a trade magazine for high expectations, I’d be on the cover. You get the idea. So, this may be part of the reason for my paralyzing creative block over the last few months.
Yesterday I had two brief interactions that changed my life. The first was with my new guitar teacher at our first beginner lesson. We were working on playing the G major scale. I was slowly plucking through the notes and my instructor was playing this amazing solo over my notes. I accidentally played a note out of order on the scale and I said, “Oh, that wasn’t right.” My instructor said, “Julie, it’s the G major scale. There is no right or wrong, you can play any note on that scale at anytime and it will sound good no matter what the order. That is what music is about, improvising”
Um….What? No right or wrong? After years of reading music for piano and oboe lessons and four years in the high school marching band, I have become rigid about two things: playing the notes on the page in the order that they occur and staying on the beat. If I’m in an exercise class and the instructor gets off beat and the whole class just follows along, I cannot just go along with that. It isn’t right! So, I look like the one who’s off beat because I’m still doing it the right way. I guess I’d rather look stupid than be wrong. But what if there is no wrong or right? What if there really is a scale and within that scale there are a huge range of things that you can play that still sound good? And even if you play a note that isn’t on that scale, it’s still okay because then it’s probably Jazz! This could be a metaphor to access for the rest of my life!
The second interaction was with a 20 year old undergraduate who came up behind me and looked at my computer.
Him: “Did you just make a repeat pattern out of corncobs?”
Me: “Yes, I did.”
Him: “That is awesome!”
Me: “Thanks but I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet.”
Him: “Who cares! It is awesome!”
Huh. Maybe I need to recognize the awesomeness of something before I analyze it and figure out how to make it the greatest thing ever made (unachievable). What about just sitting with something for a while and recognizing it for what it is before picking it apart?
These two interactions lead me to tell you how I’m moving past my lack of motivation and creative block. Oh, sure, I spent some time wallowing, or “taking time off for self-reflection” as I like to call it. Netflix and Pinterest became my best friends for a while, but that proved to be unhealthy judging from some of my pin board titles. So here is what I am doing:
- Getting involved in non-art activities that also stimulate my brain and involve fine motor skills. Guitar lessons! Anyone want to start a bowling team?!
- Shaking up my art practice with projects that don’t include clay. I am currently working on a fabric project and am sitting in on a printmaking class learning how to make natural inks and printing on paper. Fun!
- Learning how to use Adobe Illustrator. Using a completely different part of my brain. Not so fun, but boy am I happy to be in the studio after time behind the computer!
- Issuing a plea to the women in my life. I need to get out of my isolating studio and have some human interaction please. Just because the fearless leader of my women’s entrepreneur group moved to Houston doesn’t mean we still can’t meet on our own!
- Getting in the studio no matter what. Getting out of my brain and just using my hands to make stuff.
Lastly, and most importantly, taking the damn pressure off of myself. The reality is that I’m never going to create the greatest thing ever created. But that wasn’t why I made art when I was a child. I drew dogs because I loved drawing and I loved dogs. I loved it when my pictures made people happy. They made me happy then too. So today after I practice the G major scale on my guitar, I’m not going to worry about sales or what the academics might think, I’m going to make something that makes me happy. Something like a repeat pattern with corncobs.