Creativity and Inspiration, Part 2: Enact the Verb
In her last post, Laura said something which at first sounds counter-intuitive: creativity can take a lot of work. It's true, though. Inspiration does occasionally pop up like an unexpected patch of wild strawberries, but you can't rely on serendipity all the time. To be sure you won't just draw a blank when you are able to snatch a handful of quiet hours to yourself, you must cultivate inspiration like a garden. Or at least like a Chia pet.
Whatever your creative discipline, the important thing is to make like Nike and just do it. All the time. As one of my writing teachers put it, "Writers are people who write. Enact the verb." You can't expect to write like Margaret Atwood if you sit around twiddling your thumbs, waiting for 400 pages of brilliance to drop into your brain like an artfully crafted meteor. (Or meteorite, possibly. I can never remember which is which.) And knitters all know that there is a difference between themselves, and people who merely know how to knit: for the former, knitting is a part of their identity, while for the latter, knitting is something to do when a friend has a baby or when a scarf seems like a good idea for a holiday gift.
Bloggers, you know what I'm talking about -- when you first started, you know you had a little voice in your head saying "how the heck am I going to feed entries into this thing several times a week?" Then you started doing it, and it got easier. Maybe the gardening metaphor above doesn't quite work -- maybe it's more like birdfeeding. If you just look at your garden occasionally, you'll see a bird now and then. But if you put out a birdfeeder and add seeds or peanut-butter pinecones on a regular basis, you'll see birds all the time. You may even start to attract squirrels, racoons, and other crafty little critters. After all, when you get into knitting and knitblogging, you're getting into a community that isn't limited to just knitting -- you started out with knitting needles and a little yarn, you end up with a needle and notion collection, a yarn stash, a spinning wheel or two, a fiber stash, a sewing machine, a pile of pretty fabrics...inspiration stops flitting into your life like the occasional hummingbird: it swarms to you.
When I sit down, notebook in hand, sometimes I draw a blank. But putting it down again doesn't really help -- I'll just have the same problem the next time, and the next. So, if I'm trying to write, I might pick ten words from the dictionary and force myself to write a poem using one of them in each line. It won't be the next "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," but it will be something new. Or, if I'm trying to come up with a new knitting design, I might drop the pen and paper and swatch the first thing in the stash I grab. The swatch will tell me something, even if that something is "I'm a pain in the butt to knit on size 4 metal needles." It's weeding and feeding the seeds of inspiration I've planted, but pretend that I wrote it in a way that doesn't sound like a really lame greeting card.
So how do you keep your creativity muscles in shape?