When I shared my series, Beautiful Madness with all of you, I pretty much had to spill my neurotic artist self into my posts about the images, since the images were each metaphors for the depression and frustration that accompanies not being able to create, not feeling good enough, feeling boring and fraudulent. I don't always feel those things, but I certainly did then, and it turns out it was very much part of the process of, not only healing myself, but also very necessary for creating that series.
At that time, if you had told me to take a break from photography and do something else for a bit, I might have started crying or yelled at you for being unsupportive or not understanding that I HAD to create something artistic! I was absolutely obsessed with completing a cohesive body of work and it had to be good and meaningful and deep.
After lots of thinking and writing and planning, (and crying and stressing out) I had some direction. I would create a series of images about thinking, writing, crying, failing, and stressing out. I wanted to use a specific pallet. I wanted things to have obvious and implied meaning. It would be a series of sort-of self-portraits but with other people, not me, in front of the camera. I wanted the whole thing to be created in one location, and I wanted to use and reuse props and wardrobe from one shoot to the next. All part of the process.
Where was I? Oh yeah, that thing I was going to tell you about process...
The thing I've learned since then, is that getting stuck is often part of the process, and finding ways to get unstuck is also part of it.
There are ALL kinds of ways (and books and tricks and coaches) to get unstuck, one of which is to go do something else, especially something else creative. Listen, I have no time for learning new arts. I have two kids. I'm trying to make time for working out and meditating. I still don't know how to create Instagram stories; I can't get my printer to print over gold-leafing coated with digital ground; I can't figure out how to make a Pop-Up pop up on my website; I need to make some money... No time for learning another art. but for some reason, that didn't stop me from signing up for a jewelry making class recently. My husband and I both want to learn to make jewelry, so I thought, what the Hell, we'd call it a date (another thing I'm trying to make time for in our lives.)
We walked into that class having no idea what to expect. The young lady introduced herself, handed each of us a tray used for planning, sizing and organizing our necklaces and pointed us to an area containing beads of various shapes, colors and sizes.
Teacher Lady: "So these (hundreds and hundreds of) beads are all free for you to use tonight, but feel free to look around the shop (at thousands of other beads) and buy others if you want to use them in your piece."
Me: Already overwhelmed and silently holding my empty necklace tray.
Me (but five minutes later, having scanned the beads repeatedly and not placed even one in my tray): "So, how do you get started? I mean, what's the process for planning out a necklace?"
Teacher Lady: "Sometimes I like to start with a special piece, the piece that will be front and center, and work from there. Other times I know I want something simple or a certain color scheme..."
As she went on to talk to me about how certain beads helped highlight others, and how it could be nice to have something nice near the clavicle if the necklace is longer, the fog began to lift. Process!!!! Oh my God! She's talking to me about process.
She's talking about creating beautiful jewelry from scratch, and I'm thinking of how it relates to creating an art piece, but Oh my God she's speaking my language!
When we met, we didn't understand each other exactly; we didn't know we spoke the same language. She was telling us to go with the flow, create whatever we liked, and that totally works for some people, but when she began to communicate with me in the language of art and process... It was the tool I needed to get to work. It gave me a framework for my thinking.
I probably way overthought my piece, I took all the turquoise beads that were available for free, and I was the last one to finish my necklace but, hey, that's how I work.
Maybe, if you've read this far, you have connected with something I've written by now (Hope. Hope?) In case you're still reading, hoping I'd eventually get to the point, here it is:
1. Sometimes we get stuck. We need to be ok with that when it happens and not freak out.
2. We must spend some time understanding the way we work, the steps we take for preparing to be productive, what we do when we are beginning a project, what tools we prefer to use, ie. PROCESS!
3. We need to trust in that process.
4. Sometimes that means we need to do something else for a minute. Your work will still be there when you are ready for it.