The other day, I had a(nother) kind of epiphany about my relationship with creativity and creative practice. I’d just finished MacGyver-ing a washing line in my living room, and was returning a ball of twine to a box I keep under my bed. The box also contains a load of old half-finished crochet projects, and I was suddenly struck by the realisation that I’d not worked on any of them because I’d wanted to; I had, in fact, worked on them because other people had put the ideas for them in my head and urged me to do something with them.
I realised I’d not worked on any of the projects in that box because they’d been either my idea, or because they’d been something that had given me either pleasure or satisfaction. They were just… Things I’d done for other people; and this is something that, thinking over the past few years, has been a theme of most of my creative endeavours. When I wrote last month about the absence of my creativity and the reasons behind this, I thought I’d answered all my own questions. I had no idea something like this would come along and add a whole new dimension to what I’ve been thinking about.
When I think about my earliest creative endeavours, when I first learnt to knit and then crochet, I know I did this for me – because I’d wanted to learn a new skill and explore what I could do with it. The challenges of working with a new material, using new tools and learning new skills encouraged me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. When I showed other people, they were eager to tell me what they thought I could and should do with my new skills. At the time, yes, I’d have said they inspired and influenced me to do various things, but… Since they came to me with their ideas before I’d really had the chance to develop any of my own, I just became swept up in their possibilities and didn’t really explore any of my own.
With so many people getting involved, I guess I stopped thinking for myself a little. Other people suggested what I should make. Do I did. Other people suggested I should sell what I was making online. So I did. Other people suggested I should start a knitting group. So I did. Other people suggested I should join creative communities. So I did. Looking back, it feels as though I was suckered into some kind of cult – this was at the start of what we might come to call the ‘modern makers movement’ – everyone was getting involved, so why couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t I?
Perhaps what’s been happening to me in terms of my relationship with creativity has been a slow and gentle departure from this, leaving me to see what had happened to me in perspective for the first time – what I allowed to happen to me over and over again. The thing is… Once I step away from what everyone else thinks I could or should do, I’m left with… Nothing, really. Although I can see things I could and should do for myself, I just don’t want to, these days.
Part of me doesn’t want other people thinking I’m doing something ‘for them’. Part of me doesn’t see the point in doing something – anything – because nothing I’ve done previously feels as though it’s steered me in the direction of, or moved me closer towards, either anything anyone has ever thought me capable of achieving, or anything I have wanted to achieve for myself. It’s a horrible position to be in; however, in acknowledging it, there is both great clarity and great calm.
I recall a time when I knew precisely what I wanted to do and how I might go about making that happen. I recall a time when I had a plan and a career path! Everything I wanted to achieve creatively had it’s place there, too, but it feels as though that time has passed, now, and that I don’t have the time to put another plan in place. Over the last few years, I’ve tried exploring some of the pathways into other creative disciplines – these were not only unsuccessful, but they left me demotivated and disheartened.
I guess I didn’t really stick with anything long enough to see what could or might have happened, and my engagement with these various creative means and methods never resulted in something I could call a ‘creation’ – I wasn’t using these to bring forth something new and original. Now, I realise that every time I’ve dabbled in a new creative discipline, it’s been an attempt to go back to those teenage days of knitting and crochet – to the blissful rush of finally getting the hang of something, with the consequent possibilities of what that could and might enable me to do coming to me, thoughts one after the other like a rush of blood to the head.
This must also be why I’ve been so hesitant to put my ideas and few creative efforts out there, either to my friends and family, or on social media. Recently, anything I have done has felt ‘private’, and I’ve made sure to keep it to myself. Part of me doesn’t want to risk these being co-opted by the ‘I have a good idea for that’ brigade. Part of me doesn’t want there to be a(nother) point in the future where I feel as though nothing has been/is working.
I hate to think that I could come across something else to add to these past three/four months’ metablog posts. There can’t be anything else affecting my creativity, and my creative processes, products and projects. If this really is it, and there’s nothing else to discover ‘behind the scenes’… What’s next? How do I make sure I make and do ‘for me’, once I’ve made strides in being creative once again?