Cultivate Creativity – Rotate Your Crops
Yesterday, I gave a little talk at the Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge on “The Art of Vision”. I fully intend on writing about this in the near future, but during my speech I stumbled across another great topic which I feel compelled to write about today. So here I am.
The topic is: Crop Rotation.
In gardening, crop rotation refers to the seasonal rotation of vegetable crops from bed to bed, which keeps the quality of the soil healthy. In this case I’d like to use the term to describe the practice of using different genres, materials or activities to add fresh perspective, and an element of curiosity and play into our work. In doing so we create space, helping us to find inspiration in new places and allowing our creativity to grow. To point out the obvious metaphor here, we tend to our own “gardens” to keep the “soil” healthy and the flowers of creativity blooming.
I think that it’s quite common for us artists to find ourselves stagnant, or caught in a rut from time to time. Working in the same medium, often in the same styles, day after day after day can sometimes shift us into “autopilot” which steers us away from using our intuition and can lead to a lacklustre experience. I know this happens to me sometimes. I tend to spend a lot of time working and reworking the same designs again and again. I suppose partly because I know what sells, but also, I think humans naturally gravitate towards the path of least resistance. We learn what works and how to do it….and then we get a bit lazy. It’s almost as if the more practiced we are, the deeper those neural pathways become and the more difficult it is to think outside the box to see different possibilities. Actually, that’s been scientifically proven. Google it!
Thinking more about this I can see that it happens in many areas of life, but in regards to our Art? I consider it deadly. It’s anti-art.
To beat ourselves up over this tendency is completely counter-productive, but getting really honest about it is a great way to start moving again. I know that when I find myself in this place, the different parts of my brain begin to bicker. I’ve lost my joy and I want to find inspiration, yet I defend my actions by telling myself that I have to create things that I know people want – my best sellers- which just happen to be the things I’ve made hundreds of times. BORING! And while this may be partly true, there is a delicate balance between carving out real, creative space and getting done what needs to get done. That art/business balance. The bane of a working artist’s existence.
Personally, I find that what I need most is play! Like, the kind of creative play that comes from boredom.
“Boredom?” you ask. “What is boredom?” <snicker> Yeah, yeah…I know.
Well, humour me. Think back many years ago to when you were still a young child. A time before work and chores and distracting technology – when you would find yourself saying to your caregivers, “What can I do? I’m SO BORED!” Remember the wonderful, silly, exciting, fantastical, CREATIVE things you would get up to once you stopped whining and complaining?? Well, we don’t need to necessarily attempt to recreate those exact experiences, but if you can recall that energy…….the open, curious, playful feeling that would come from those times….well, I think that’s just what the doctor ordered.
In order to pave the way for that energy to exist, though, we need to give it room.
I find what helps me is to regularly set time aside. Like actually SCHEDULE it, rather than trying to fit it in here or then when I “think I can”. Because I’m not actually sure, when push comes to shove, that’ll I’ll give myself permission. As adults, there is always something that needs to be done. Our to-do lists really never end and we are never actually “caught up”. And seeing as this list will always be there waiting for us, we don’t need to worry that it will disappear on us if we get away from it for awhile. 😉 Schedule the time. Get out of the house, if need be, and away from your chores and take an hour, a half day, even a whole day off.
If you need to somehow justify it to yourself, well, how about this: your art depends on it!
Personally, I have to either take a full day or schedule this time for myself in the afternoons. I find that I can’t easily turn my brain off if I know I have a busy day ahead of me, so mornings just don’t seem to work. Psychologically, scheduling this time off makes it easier for me to give myself permission and let everything wait until tomorrow. I’m not anticipating the busy hours in the day ahead, or running through my lists, so I feel light and free and easy. I used to think that there was something wrong with this wiring of mine, which makes it so difficult to slow down and let go, but these days I am embracing what I’ve got and working with it! Self love, bitches!
I should also mention that sometimes these moments of creative play show up spontaneously…..and that is totally AMAZING when it happens. But honestly, these moments can’t be counted on because they tend to be context specific. So why not set the stage? This playtime is so essential to my creativity that I have to schedule it, because often when I need it the most is exactly when I’ll make every excuse in the book to not get it. Because that’s what us lovely, stupid humans do. 🙂
What do I do with my TIME? Well, whatever I feel like! Maybe that sounds a bit anticlimactic….or heavenly…..or both…..but yeah, often I just ask my heart what it wants to be doing? If I asked my body, it would most often say, “NAP!”, but the point of this time is to nurture my creative soul. The body’s needs are just as important, and there is often some overlap, but you may need to schedule separate time for that nap. At this time of the year I often will take a day, or even a few hours here and there to work on my (literal) gardens. On days when my inner perfectionist is being quiet, I love to write. I make strange things out of unusual materials. One day last year I decided to take the afternoon off and go to an amusement park by myself. The idea is to be loose and fun and free. A walk in the woods or around your neighbourhood can spark creativity if it is practiced with that intention. If you are a painter, try sculpting! If you are a sculptor, try photography! See a concert, go dancing……Whatever your heart desires. Just be open and curious so that inspiration can find you.
Have fun and go rotate those crops.