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Get past your creative blocks

My time away last week reminded me how much I love to create, how important it is, and how I don’t spend enough time on creating outside the business. My goal for the rest of the year to schedule “me” time in for creativity and stick to it.

As I was thinking about how to schedule that time, I remembered the  lecture Elizabeth Gilbert gave at the 2009 TED Conference entitled “A different way to think about creative genius” about nurturing creativity. I went back and listened to it again. What struck me then as now was that when she was having a hard time writing, she took time and just spoke out to the corner, to let genius come to her; and if it didn’t, well, she showed up for her part of the job. Isn’t that we do many times when we create, we just show up? Sometimes it’s a wonderful effort; othertimes it’s just an effort. But we showed up.

I’m sure you’ve had times where you’ve showed up for the job but have been blocked creatively, whether it’s from pressures, fears, uncertainties or something else. Here are six ideas to jump start your creative juices:

1. Fill the well. Look at other art, either surfing the Internet or visiting galleries. Go on an artist’s date, a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. And, be sure to step outside the quilt realm. Sometimes looking at other art is all it takes to get a new idea.

2. Set a challenge or goal for yourself. I think the journal quilt idea is a great one here. Challenge yourself to create something small each day or week. Pick a theme. When I did the monthly journals, mine were all pears. Or focus on a particular bit of nature in your yard and follow it through the year. And, move outside your comfort zone. If traditional piecework is your thing, grab some paintstiks and let lose. If you are an art quilter, try a pieced block for a change.

3. Create a daily ritual. Twyla Tharp writes about this idea in The Creative Habit. The daily ritual becomes so ingrained that it sets the pace for your day. She says, “It’s Pavlovian: follow the routine, get a creative payoff.” I liked her example of the chef who starts each day by tending the garden on the terrace of his Brooklyn home. This creative environment lets him putter, pick veggies or herbs, think about flavors. At this point, he heads off to the restaurant to begin creating. For me, I have a ritual of walking each weekday really, really early. The fresh air gets me going. What is your ritual?

4. Take a class to learn a new skill.This could be a photography class, a water color painting class, a cooking class, a computer class. Just being creative in some other area will translate into your quilt work.

5. Keep an idea journal, if you don’t already. Fill it with things that inspire you from in and outside the quilt world. When you’re blocked, leave your studio and pull out your idea journal. Ideas will surface.

6. Act as if you don’t have any blocks and then just jump in. One idea will lead to another. Remember that every piece of art you create doesn’t have to be perfect. One of the quotes I have tacked on my wall is “progress, not perfection.” If I waited for everything to be perfect, I’d still be waiting.

Here are two favorite quotes on creativity:

“In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin; A grass blade’s no easier to make than an oak.” James Russell Lowell

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Rather ask, what makes you come alive? Then go and do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” Howard Thurman

So, get creating. Allah, Olé, Bravo!

Please share your ideas on dealing with creative blocks or creativity in general below.

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