Feedback & Criticism

Things that rev-up my creativity engine include getting good feedback about my little creations.

Constructive criticism is always appreciated too, and some of my best work had been the result of someone seeing an improvement that could be made to one of my brain-children, and having the courage to tell me what they think.

One Creativity Killer

One thing I have noticed this past week is how much feeling less than 100% impacts on my creativity.  A bad cold has made me feel sluggish all week, and dampened my enthusiasm for everything but sleep.  I guess we all just have to ride out lows such as this from time to time.

Creativity Quotes From the Greats

 I find the most creative ideas bubble to the surface for me during quiet times, when I can just play with ideas and materials. And, there must be no attachment to preconcieved ideas about how a thing should be for the ideas about 'what could be' to flow.

Here are some quotes about creativity I like:

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

To get a great idea, come up with lots of them.

I can only say "Amen!" to all these quotes.

How to keep Those Happy Mistakes

Let me see what happens if I do this......maybe that...tweak it here....fold it there.....try a different color, or a different shade of the color I am already using.... perhaps do this detail another way....Hmmmm, what would happen if.....

That seems to sum up my creative process. 

Taking the time to make notes, to track the sometimes twisted path taken to achieve a pleasing end result, is the difficult, non-play part of my creative process. 

How many times  I have found a new creation in my hand without knowing exactly how it came to be! Since backtracking is not fun, I try to discipline myself to  note-taking as I go through the process of desiging something new from my imagination. 

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams

Lessons From the Fly-Fishermen

A river flows behind our house.  There is a fishing hole there that attracts dozens of anglers nearly every day during fishing season. Those fly-fishermen (sorry – I’m not being politically incorrect, I just haven’t seen any fisher-women) are a joy to watch.

I have learned much about dedication, risk, and tenacity, all aspects of creativity, from them.   

They start arriving before full daylight.  Sure, there will still be fish in the river mid-morning, but enthusiasm for their sport makes these hearty anglers roll out of bed before dawn, drive miles through the early morning darkness, and wade out into the cold water at first light.

Some of the lessons they have silently imparted to me, an unseen observer, have helped me in both the artistic, and business aspects of my journey.

First, these dedicated anglers go where the fish are.  They don’t expect a salmon or steel-head to swim up their driveway, & knock on their door! They know they must be out among the fish to hook one, just as I know I must immerse myself in creative ideas for one to take hold in my mind.

Books, magazines, videos, certain TV shows, arts & crafts fairs, quilt shows, art galleries, classes, and the company of other artists all help spark creative ideas for me.
Lesson Two; Thigh-high to chest-deep in the current, anglers in the river behind our house often spend hours perfecting their casting technique.  It is not uncommon to see a fisherman who hardly leaves his hook in the water long enough to attract a fish, he is just working on his casting.

How often might my time be better spent perfecting a difficult technique on scraps of cloth before attempting to use it on a finished product.   

Lesson Three;  Seeing fishermen catch & release fish puzzled me at first.  My husband explained that some of the fish in the river were not legal to keep.The fish must meet certain size requirements, and some, the ‘Natives’ must always be released.  The Catch & Release requirement doesn’t seem to deter our fishermen.  They don’t go stomping away from the river, and drive off in a huff, when a fish they caught isn’t right.  They simply release it and try again.

I think of them when it takes me days, or weeks, to design and create a new item so it matches up perfectly with my vision. 

I think of fishermen when a hot idea, one that really sparked my enthusiasm, fizzles.  There have been hundreds of ideas that didn’t work out; they weren’t practical, they looked awful, the equipment I have wasn’t right to construct them, etc…. The list goes on…..

So, the net is cast again.  Using creativity does not use it up, it merely fine tunes it.

 Sometime a simple tweak, or adjustment makes the idea work.  Sometime an idea must be released, at least for the moment.  Maybe like the ‘too small’ fish, it will grow somewhere out of my awareness, only to come back again when the time is right.

Lesson Four;  Fishing, like most artistic endeavors, is something each fisherman must do for himself.  He may be surrounded by others, and their catches may inspire him, but he must catch his own fish.  No one else can do that for him.

The lesson here is clear.  Others may inspire, but each of us can bring to life only that which is ours to create.

The Napoleon in Me

Compare yourself to Napoleon? Probably not. Most of us don't identify with the little Frenchman, yet it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said "Imagination rules the world".

Whether we are expressing ourselves in such diverse medias as metal, stone, wood, paint, fabric, yarn, flowers, words, or in an infinite number of other creative modes, imagination is our common factor.

Best remembered as a warrior, Napoleon's successes, including eleven years as the on again, off again, on again, Emperor of France, are often forgotten, and his name has become synonymous with the word, Waterloo, his great, and last defeat.

My guess is that this plucky little man's vivid imagination, possibly his most important attribute, worked overtime, plotting and planning a royal comeback during his last six years, while confined on the island of St. Helena.

While most of us will never soar as high as Napoleon, nor have the misfortune of being imprisoned till death on an island, we can learn from his successes and mistakes.

Let's focus on his successes. Number one, he didn't quit when the going got tough. As a military leader, when one opportunity failed, Napoleon thought of another way to achieve his goal. As a political leader, he broke with tradition and instituted civil laws that are still in use today.

Fast forward to the present, to a modern-day Imagineer, as the late Walt Disney called his engineers.

The May 2012 issue of Costco magazine features an article on Sir James Dyson, inventor extraordinaire. He imagined a better vacuum cleaner.  In his quest to perfect what he imagined such an appliance could be, he created 5,127 prototypes over a period of 13 years. (Make that; FIVE THOUSAND, ONE HUNDRED, TWENTY SEVEN prototypes & THIRTEEN YEARS!)His ultimate success is a tribute to his creative spirit.

Both Dyson and Bonaparte had fiery imaginations, but they had other attributes that ultimately sealed their successes. They had faith in their vision, and they had bulldog-like tenacity. Along with their vision and tenacity, their imaginations did indeed, rule their respective worlds.

As an artist, I know I can toughen up a bit when a beloved project, a brainchild, doesn't turn out exactly as envisioned, on the first, the fifth, or the tenth try, or is not accepted as well as I might like. (Yes, I am talking to myself here) I can learn from Napoleon and Dyson. Instead of sulking, or giving up, I can use that experience to fire my imagination to create more ideas to express my passion.

And, I can hang in there for the long haul. The creative spirits of Napoleon and Dyson were not fragile.  Mine will not be fragile either!