Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Being creative is a natural high for me. I love to create. Usually I love anything that allows me to use my imagination and the freedom to express who I am. It is puzzling to me, then, how I can turn a creative activity into a stress event. But that is exactly what I do at times, for example, when I sat down to design this webpage. Setting up the blog site should have been an artist's dream. There were numerous templates to choose from, and even better, I could customize the template I chose. Creative freedom! Surely a situation for pure artistic bliss. Instead, I found myself stressing over world-changing decisions such as what the link color should be. Seriously, I found myself thinking things such as I can't put purple on this green background; it will look like Mardi Gras and I like this crimson but red and green? Isn't that too Christmas? These actually might be legitimate questions, but I spent hours worrying over these details. I did enjoy some of the time I spent putting the website together, but for too much of the time, I stressed over design decisions as if the fate of the universe rested on my choices. Why do I do this? Part of the answer is that I am a recovering perfectionist, and some days I free-fall back into perfectionism. There may be more to it. I'm not sure. What I do know is that this is the kind of thing that gets in the way of the artistic process. It is the kind of thing that causes writer's block. For years, I have taught my writing students to deal with writer's block by messing up the paper. If it's loose leaf, I tell them to scribble all over the page. If they are typing, I tell them to type nonsense -- anything from lalalalala to I have no idea what to write or fuzzlebuzzle little pea bug. Whatever. This works. Once the page is messed up, the writer no longer needs to worry about finding the perfect word or writing brilliant sentences, so the writer can just write. It really works. Try it the next time you need to write something and you find yourself staring at the page, not knowing how to start. After all, what you write initially doesn't matter that much. You're going to refine it later. Just let the creativity flow first. Afterwards, you can shape and shave it into a piece of art. With the website, once I got through my head that I could change a color after I got the page set up, I began to relax and have fun. And isn't that the essential part of a creative endeavor? I'm not denying that good art requires work. I'm saying that if you don't enjoy doing it, what's the point? So be creative. Mess it up and enjoy! C.F.