Thursday, January 8, 2015

Falling in and out of art

I used to pride myself on my creativity. When I was younger, I was drawing constantly, taking art classes, hand-making all sorts of eclectic gifts, and doing crafts just because I wanted to. Lately, though, I haven't been doing much of that at all. The craftiest thing I've accomplished – or even attempted – in about a year was preparing several batches of artisanal soap at the end of December—and that was really only because I needed some Christmas gifts and wanted to scale down my massive collection of soap-making supplies since its only function over the last two years has been to take up a lot of space. Thinking on this uninspired existence of mine, I started feeling a little down—worrying that I had simply lost my creative touch.

But after Christmas, I suddenly had the muse fall upon me. Random moments were punctuated by bursts of weird creativity.

"If I was an artist," I told my boyfriend while we were driving, "I'd create a giant wire sculpture of a tree, and put it on top of a car, with the roots draping down over the sides and growing into the windows." "If I was an artist, I'd make tiny little scenes of fairies all over these rocks and take pictures of them!" "If I was an artist, I would crochet a cap for that round river stone and make it into an acorn."

Aside from my repetitive use of the same opener, "If I was an artist," it was clear that I hadn't lost my creative touch. I was on a roll, and I had to wonder, what made it happen? And in a similar vein, if I hadn't lost lost it, why had it temporarily disappeared?

It didn't take long for me to figure out the answer to both questions: Time!

Yes, that miraculous substance that rules our lives had asserted itself again. For the past few years, I've been working 8.5 hours a day and doing work-related prep and cleanup tasks for another hour at least, and by the end of all that, there's been little time or brainpower left for non-essential pursuits. But the entire week after Christmas, I'd basically just been home all day, free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Without the enormous drain of working, I suddenly had the liberty to let my mind wander—and it was fun!

I've learned two valuable (and reassuring) lessons from this: 1) it's not that I've ever stopped being creative, it's just that I've been forced to let the mundane requirements of everyday life take precedence. 2) My fashion fixation is not a vice as I sometimes worry it is—it's merely a pragmatic outlet for the creative energy I still have. When you don't have the time (or the studio) to construct massive sculptures and spend hours photographing tableaus, you work art into your life however you can. For me, that's assembling thematic outfits, salvaging unwearable clothing, and occasionally embarking on an epic embellishment experiment. In this way, I get to see the fruits of my labor and display my creations in the environments where I actually spend my time.

So, I'm not going to feel guilty about ordering another eBay dress on the same day I receive a shipment of 5 pairs of shoes, just 3 days after buying not one but two sequined shirts along with a package of false eyelashes (which I recently claimed I would never even try)—that's just how I express myself!

I feel much better now, but I'm still wondering if other people out there are confusing a lack of time or a lack of energy for a lack of talent. We all have creative bones in our bodies, but I think many people's are burdened with the weight of too many responsibilities. Here is the moral of this story: Don't let burnout happen to you! Let your light shine, however dimly, and never doubt your own abilities. And just wait until'll be building trees on top of cars in no time!