the creative process

July 21, 2011 § 8 Comments

I have been scarce lately and eons behind on my replies to your wonderful comments and emails, but I do read all and thank you for taking the time to share your feedback, kind words, and queries.  They have not gone unnoticed!  I do very much value your opinions and suggestions and promise to get back to everyone this weekend. And I do thank you for allowing the bits and morsels of my life into yours.

One of the questions I am often asked is how I come up with such random ideas for this blog.  Hmmm.  What makes me want to turn a dim sum steamer into a circus carousel lantern or a pylon into an Easter basket or a fortune cookie batter into calla lilies?  The creative process, for me, starts with a completely blank mind, oddly enough.  It’s the epistemological “tabula rasa” or blank slate.  I prefer to empty my mind before channeling creative thought.  If the mind is full and makes its own decision to light a “no vacancy” sign, creativity does not — cannot — come knocking.

I’m sure we all go through so many challenges everyday that prevent us from clearing our head.  For me, I noticed that my creativity performed a disappearing act as I got settled into my new job.  I’m sure that was when you noticed my absence (sure, maybe not totally)…erratic presence?  My mind has been full lately.

Having a full-time cubicle job altered the direction of my creative thought (and led it off a cliff).  If you’ve followed along with my stories about how I gave up my business, I’m sure you can understand the bit of shock I experienced getting back into a corporate environment after a prolonged stint in entrepreneurship.  And if you have done the same thing yourself, I am sure you can empathize.  S-H-O-C-K!

At first I was shocked (actually, still am) with the amount of new, seemingly insurmountable information I need to learn at work.  Even though I had my feet wet in civil engineering before pulling the I-quit-my-day-job trick out of my magic hat, I was young, had less responsibility, and the wading was shallow and brief.  Now, I re-enter the field, a vivid shade of green (the green being me, not the field, though I guess that is, too).  But I have given myself some reprieve that I am human and cannot know everything overnight nor over weeks, not even months.  I accept that.

What shocked me more about returning to an office is the culture.  I nearly forgot people have different principles and ethics and ambitions and motivations.  And I was reminded that the work place is oftentimes an extension of high school.  There are mean kids that quite predictably grow up to be mean adults.  Or bullied kids who grow up as bully adults avenging their past anguish.  And there are kids who don’t care about their grades who grow up to be adults who put the same effort in their performance at their job.  There may be lots of “I didn’t do it”, “It’s not my job”, and work passed like a hot potato.  How did I forget that?  It happens everywhere, does it?  I’m sure less in some places than others.

In the recent weeks, I allowed myself to be mired by this unconstructive energy.  I went home every night feeling so utterly exhausted by the energy at work, at the sacrifice of my own sanity and creativity.  I felt deflated.  Defeated.

An idea gone wrong.

But I learned, amidst a sea of indifference, indolence, and ineffectiveness, there are the honest-to-goodness nice kids who grew up to be adult versions of their young selves.  These are the inspirational busy bees.  These are the high-achievers.  These are the kids who go out of their way to unselfishly lend a hand.  And when you seek their help and advice, they are the ones who happily encourage you, allow you the opportunity to grow, and wish you the most success (without an ounce of begrudging), however you choose to define your success.

If your creative mind experiences obstacles as I recently have, fight the temptation to fall into a stupor.  After some thought and evaluation, I have resolved to do the best I can at work, for my own sake.  Though it took some time for clarity, I realize that the better person I am at work, the better person I can be after work.  And we must never forget, “effort” is the evaluative scale across the bar of life (that is, effort in work, in relationships, in self-improvement, and long-term achievements).  You put little, you get little.  So why not put lots?

The GOOD NEWS is, as I was busying myself at work, I busied myself with crafting at home (though it doesn’t seem like it here) and secured assignments to get a couple of my crafts published in print in magazines, nationally across the US and nationally across Canada in 2012.  I am excited!  I will say more when those times are here.  For the most part, when I get an idea, I often wonder, “Blog it?” or “Pitch it?”.  In the end, I know I will still reach my goal of getting the ideas to you, despite the various means.

Yes, creativity may be led off a cliff at times, but be forewarned — it has wings.  It will soar when you will it to.  And it doesn’t disappear for good nor die.

I believe we can will ourselves to be creative, if we can will ourselves to empty our mind.  What happens when I empty my mind?  I don’t suppose what will happen at work tomorrow (or assess what happened yesterday and today).  I don’t consider the recent piece of gossip traversing the cubicles (as they are mostly ill-intended).  I don’t mull over my upcoming wedding (When is that?  Did I get the memo?).  I just focus on my mind as though it were a white canvas, and allow an image to morph naturally.  Most times, I focus on only a single object.  And my mind tries to define the object.  This is when I choose to take control of my consciousness and ask myself everything I know related to that object.  I break thoughts down into very simple facets.  Shape.  Color.  Texture.  Function.  Related objects and their shapes, colors, textures, and functions.  Sensations, at times.  Then I am surprised at what comes as a result of clearing my head and having my thoughts broken down.  I often do this in the car with the radio off.  Or in the shower (I understand this is the safe haven where most creative people come up with life-changing ideas).

It sounds simple  But I know, it truly is difficult to empty the mind.  It’s tricky when our minds are so preoccupied with the goings-on in our lives.  Permit yourself to get preoccupied, but do set aside moments of free time for your mind.  Your creative self will thank you.  Remember, ideas only take seconds to conceive.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on how you come up with your creative ideas!  Please share!  And also, I’d love to hear stories about how you juggle your life at work, after-work, and your creative pursuits!  I’m sure everyone will love to read about them, too!!!

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§ 8 Responses to the creative process

  • Roda says:

    Thanks for this insightful post! I have lots on my mind…haven’t cleared the clutter in my mind yet as my craft supplies await my return! Such is life! I also liked how you equated people’s personalities at work to high school…unfortunately so, so true, even with the most “professional” titles.

  • Beth says:

    Jeromina,

    I found myself nodding along to everything you stated (and internally screaming, “Amen Sister!”). I find that it is my blog that propels my creativity (not so much my work). I’m currently in the process of leaving Queens (NYC) and moving to Western Massachusetts – tomorrow! My shift in job careers (I was a proposal writer for a community college in the public sector and will now be an educational writer for a private corporation) will definitely be a shock. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the private sector. Writing, of course, can be creative, though these positions ask for a more factual style.

    Since all my art supplies have been packed for a week, I’ve been itching do something creative. I’ve taken the time to write guest posts on two other friends blogs, which has definitely helped.

    Thank you for your honesty!

  • HeatherTx says:

    Thank you for opening up about your struggles lately, and unfortunately, it’s similar to what I deal with 5 days a week. I do wish it were possible for me to have a creative career (and still pay rent). For now, I continue to work with not-nice creatures as I pursue a graduate degree and strive for a (hopefully better) career – some day.

    One major source of frustration – I currently don’t have space for my art & craft supplies at home, and neighbor complaints prevent me from even using my sewing machine, so all of my creative pursuits are saved for the weekends when I can drive down to the workshop I share with my brother (~40 miles away). So even if I go home after work itching to make something, I have to ‘save it up’ for the weekend. I’m restricted to a little hand sewing, maybe some beading or some sketching. Some day, I’ll have space of my own where I can work quietly without distractions/ disruptions, or where I can be LOUD, or stink up the room with smells of paint and patinas. And wouldn’t it be perfect if I could make a living doing what I love to do? *sigh*

    I hope your situation improves, or at least becomes more tolerable for you. Thank you so much for all of your posts & newsletters – they really brighten my day! : )

    • Sue Wagner says:

      How can your neighbors complain about a sewing machine? (I’ve never been able to understand why everyone DOESN’T sew!). I know what you mean about no space—we live in Iowa and had to evacuate our home due to flooding. It looks like our house (but not the yard or the driveway) will come through unscathed, but meanwhile we’re living in a 10 x 34 foot RV in our friends’ back yard! And while I’m so grateful that we had a place to flee to, I miss sewing so much it feels like a rock in my stomach! At first I did some hand quilting but lately seem to have run out of steam. Hang in there!

  • Sue Wagner says:

    I was so happy to read your thoughts on emptying your mind when you get home! I forget to do that, and find myself dwelling on something/someone that I have absolutely no control over. I’ve heard the saying that it’s like letting someone you don’t like live rent-free inside your head, but it’s easy to get into circular thinking and forget all about that. THANK YOU for the reminder!! The part about the personalities we encounter at work helped, too.

  • Leanne says:

    Thank you for the thought provoking post Jeromina. Keeping a positive attitude in the face of negativity can be challenging, but is so important!

    I have always struggled to calm my overactive mind. I find it difficult to disengage and just be. I actually use designing to relax. When I’m trying to sleep and all the worries of the day won’t stop twirling around my brain, I pick a design I’ve been working on and try to see all the details in my head. It pushes out all the noise and lets me relax enough to fall asleep. The other benefit is that I wake up itching to work on my new ideas.

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. I mostly lurk around reading your posts on my news feeder, and don’t stop by as often as I should to let you know how much I enjoy them.

  • Paola says:

    How I come up with creative ideas is a lot like how you do it as well. I find that little something that calls my attention and interest and try to take it to a different, new level – a spin to it if you will. That gets my mind going, then I get super excited and wanting to materialize that thought, then blog about it and share it with the world! And seeing other creative minds’ ideas, like yours, is incredible inspiring as well!

    My fiancee and I started our own food recipe website but we also have our own full-time jobs that are completely different from our entrepreneurial project and I can totally relate to what you wrote. It can be challenging to deal with superficial and selfish people in the work place, but it also gives you the tools to develop a thick skin that you can mostly wear while at work, then gives you more reasons to look forward to going home and let your free creative spirit out🙂 it is tough to juggle both things, but I think that having a great network of people like yourself, helps us encourage each other to continue to pursue the things we truly have a passion for. Thank you for this blog! it’s helping me carry on with all of the projects I have had in my mind for a while and haven’t made the time to actually work on them.

  • […] make yourselves scarce” type of repression).  This is quite contrary to what I recently said here in my culling of creative ideas (I may have actually written that post to avert my mind from going on […]

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