Creative Progress, between projects.

We seem to have developed a routine to Saturdays that allows me some highly desirable time in which I am the only biped in the house. (Actually, that’s not strictly true, as sometimes Moss is around and he can get around almost as well on his two hind legs as he can on four.) 

So this Saturday I chugged through finishing off trees and mentally planned the next couple of projects as I went, knowing full well that when the trees were done, I’d be in that awful no man’s land of Between Projects. Perhaps I should explain this, as I always have something on the drawing board and rarely have only one project on the go at a time….

Between Projects is a mental state as opposed to a technical location. It means that your mind hasn’t worked itself around exactly how you’re going to tackle or use that next idea. It’s kind of like boredom, in a strange sense, in that there’s no technical need for it as you have an abundance of ideas/things to do, but sometimes none of them click with how you’re feeling or thinking at the time. So you drift around with a sense of malaise, hoping that some idea will gel and quickly.

When you throw yourself into developing an idea, it’s usually because there’s a certain emotional or psychological (I swore I’d never use that word in a blog, but there it is) interest vested in it. You wrap yourself in its meanings, the variations and they ways in which the idea can be expressed or executed. It’s a tricky thing to get that involved with a new idea while still coming off an old one. Frustrating, because you want to have it all worked out, but what you’re stuck with at first is only the glimmer of an idea. You want a marriage, but you get a first date.

I’ve learned a couple of tricks to get me from one project to another. I don’t use them all every time, but have used each of them fairly regularly. Here they are:

  • before you finish one project, start contemplating the next. Sometimes the creative energy of the one will rub off on the other and make beginning easier. Be careful of this, though, as there’s always the danger of being more interested in starting the new project than in finishing the old!
  • sketch ideas and make notes. Sketch books are incredibly valuable tools…
  • research the field of your idea, as well as any features you may need to illustrate to convey the idea.
  • filter through your materials and be open to new ways of using them with the new idea
  • After you’ve played with the new idea for a bit, put it down and do something creative, but different. Paint, work with clay, photograph, or use your creativity in some other fashion. This can be like a koan in that while you focus your attention on one creative idea, the seeds of another may gel.
  • Take a break. Really. Give yourself a couple of days off. Sleep. Do housework. If housework doesn’t inspire you to get back at it and do something creative, nothing will….
  • Tidy your studio. Some people do this between all projects. Not guilty.
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