A creative crisis can hit anyone at anytime. I know, I’ve had many a creative crisis throughout the years, and I always seem to get through them, somehow.
If you don’t know what I mean, check out this handy illustration found in Steal Like an Artist.
If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you will recognize this image. This is not the first time we’ve talked about this topic, but it’s so important that I wanted to bring it up again with a real world example: my son.
cursed blessed to be raising a creative child, which often leads to some interesting moments. Moments, like this past weekend when I experienced my son struggling with his latest sculpture project and I could clearly see his journey mirroring my own.
Luckily I’ve been writing for this blog long enough that I knew exactly what to do when his project went south. Like most parents, I heard something might be going awry before I actually confirmed there was a problem. Small explosions of the emotional kind were erupting from the basement. When I went to investigate, I found him in his bedroom hiding under a blanket; hiding from his troubles. (Oh to be young, when hiding under the blankets could cure most of the ills of the world!) I managed to get enough information out of him to realize that he was in the middle of a creative crisis. Since I’m a no-nonsense kind of mom, I treated him like I would any creative, and I went and got my copy of Steal Like an Artist and turned to page 83 .
Imagine me on the carpet placing the book in front of him as he continues to lick his wounded ego by burying his face into the cats fur. There I am telling him “See, you’re not alone, you’re not the first artist to hit a road block on your project. Look, this is how all projects go! In fact its so common they wrote a book about it! I know you’ve already passed ‘This is the best idea ever’ and ‘OK, this is harder than I thought’ so the only question is where are you now?’ I walked him through each step in the process and you know what, my kid is pretty awesome, he got up and went back to his mad scientist workshop and we discussed what was the best way to proceed.
After we found the parts strewn across the driveway we discovered the problem. Sometimes we need a little skilled labor to help us over the tough parts. I arranged for a friend to come over to help him and he was able to finish the project. It looks great. Maybe not the stunning vision of glass and metal that he had originally designed, but more than good enough.
I know he looks at his finished sculpture like all artists; the look that says, yeah I finished it, its ok, I’m not happy with it but it will do. Now to get onto the next project. I’ve seen that look; do you know the look that I’m talking about? Is that how you look at your own creative projects?
When your deep in the trenches of your creative project it’s so easy to get discouraged. It doesn’t matter if you’re a photographer, a sculpture or a writer, creating something is hard work. If you’re pushing yourself to the edge of your abilities you will always hit that moment when you think it will never work out, it will never live up to your vision. When you reach that point, remember we’ve all been there and It’s ok. Keep going, keep pushing on, and know you will come out the other side and somewhere along the way, you will learn something and your next project will be better for it.
If you’ve had your own creative crisis, feel free to share it with us in the comments. It’s when we share these darker moments that we know, yes we’re human, we’re all struggling and we’re not alone.
Your moment of Zen…
Wonderful post Shelly! I liked the story about your son 🙂 I too have been struggling recently. My issue is keeping my hobby “fun”. I often envision a more complicated setup than I am physically capable of doing (I have chronic pain) and then I get frustrated and sore and lose interest in the idea or my photo ends up being a much simpler version of my original idea. Then I get that look on my face that you described: “I’m not happy with it but it will do”. I keep trying to remind myself that it’s a hobby and I should enjoy the process, even if it’s frustrating and painful some of the time. When I feel really frustrated, I just take minifig “portraits” because they are quick and easy to setup and I usually like the results. That can help pull me out of my creative crisis for awhile 🙂
Thank you Lynn, Im happy this post helped to remind you of the ‘joys’ of the creative process. I will admit it was both scary and gratifying to see the creative process play out in my son. It rally drove home the idea that this is a universal experience, not simply an interesting diagram in a pseudo self help book.
Its interesting that you bring up the idea of ‘fun’. This hobby of mine – toy photography- long ago ceased to be fun. In fact, I’m not sure if it ever was. But it has been endlessly fascinating, challenging and creatively satisfying. One of my favorite books is The Left Hand of Darkness. I will never forget the ending, after the protagonist returns from his harrowing adventure across an ice field, looking back on this near death experience as one the ‘happiest’ times of his life. I think of the creative process like that. It may not be what is a marketers idea of ‘happy’, but it certainly works for me.
I commend you for working through the pain, having a back up plan, and continuing on your creative journey, be it lego or writing. You’re a hero!
Now I’ve got a word to put on what I regularly experience. I first realized it last summer when I was frustrated not being able to implement all the photo ideas I had in mind. It was lacking motivation to shoot toys, took very few pictures and produced (almost) no good ones. Since then, I realized I regularly experience short periods where I feel the same way. And even though I don’t remember it well because I didn’t realize it before last summer, I know it’s been there since I decided to be a toy photographer.
Not latter than last week-end I finally overcame, by taking a few satisfying shots, such mini crisis that easily lasted 2 or 3 weeks. Now that I start to get used to those crisis I don’t worry about them anymore (or at least I try not to) because I know that I will eventually overcome them. Each time it ends up with the feeling of having improved my photography skills.
I also realize that I never experienced this kind of crisis with other types of photography. Each time I decided to try something different in photography because it looked interesting and creatively challenging, it lost rather quickly that “challengingness”. Toy photography is the exception and is the only creative activity that seems to keep me challenged over and over again.
I think its wonderful that you realize that creativity and also the energy to be creative ebbs and flows. Once you realize that, you realize there is no need to panic, sit tight, you will feel creative before you know it. Its good to know have down times, its a chance to recharge. Obviously you are on the right track with toy photography since you are continually challenged by it AND it remains fun! Keep up the awesome work!