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Creative License to Do What You Want

It's Ash Wednesday, and I'm atoning for my sins.


Well, okay, not my sins.  I really, really need to learn not to go wandering around the web when I'm feeling fragile - the proliferation of excruciatingly bad 16th century historical research and costuming hurts.  Honestly, I know this stuff happened a long time ago, but (for example), there was a distinct lack of Puritans at Jamestown, and a quick perusal of any number of excellent museum documents available online would make that abundantly clear.  It's one thing to be hypothesizing about something historians disagree on, but getting rudimentary history wrong is sheer fucking laziness.

Why was I noodling around randomly?  I'm a dilletante.  I get ideas in my head, go looking for random inspiration/research, and waste endless happy hours making something that has no relation to anything I usually do, just because I thought it was neat.

(Pictures this evening of the current thing.)

All my life I've been fed the idea that I need to settle down to one thing - that, and "pace yourself".  I am good at neither.  I have been blessed with the ability to do several things with a modicum of skill, and dropping most of them in favour of concentrating on one seems like a waste. 

(This is also where the "pace yourself" thing comes in - it gets done in the time it takes to get done, dammit.  I'm not going to go slow just because someone else thinks it should take longer.  This attitude used to drive my art professors mad.  Personally, while I absolutely feel that one should take all the time one needs to do something well, the amount of time spent on something is not neccessarily an indicator of quality - either way.  Taking longer on something for the sake of taking longer is, well, silly.)

(Mind you, more than once, I've had the "quality vs. quantity" discussion with someone.  Doing something in the shortest time is also not a good benchmark for quality.)

But back to the creative side of things.  Creativity isn't just about making things, it's about possibilities, both large and small.  Sure, your first left-handed widget holder is a little wobbly, but your next one might be the one that changes the world.  Or, you've found that macrameing a widget press is the ideal way for you to relax.  For instance, one of the things I like is writing music.  I don't do it often - I've writtten maybe 15 songs of any quality ("bad" is a quality, right?) over the past 20 years - but I like doing it when inspiration strikes.  I'm never going to be prolific enough to make any money off it, but that doesn't stop me daydreaming about  winning an Oscar for "Best Original Song".  In the meantime, it makes me happy to discover that I can write lyrics better than I thought. 

Because I don't have any specific reason to write music, I can daydream and make myself happy at the same time.  The door remains open - me winning an Oscar has about the same level of probability as finding a wardrobe that leads to Narnia, but who cares?  Writing is its own reward as well. 

(Still looking for that wardrobe, though.  Just because I haven't found it yet, doesn't mean it isn't out there.)

I think society makes a mistake when it demands that activities have a "purpose".  Crafting has left the realm of amusing downtime filler, and become a "business opportunity", and I think we're actually poorer as a result. 

For me, it puts undue stress on my creativity to be told I should put all of it to commercial use.  I don't want to make money at everything I do, sometimes I just want to create for the hell of it.  Years ago, I realized I didn't even like competitions, so now I just make costumes for my own amusement.  I like writing the occasional song.  I enjoy writing essays without any restrictions on subject - whatever comes into my mind on any given day.  I like painting random things.  I like not having a purpose.  Creativity does not have to make money to have value.

My ex-husband never understood this.  To him, if it wasn't bringing in cash, it was worthless.  Sadly, I have run into a surprisingly large number of people who feel the same way - "what use is art?" they scoff.

Well, actually, it's very useful.  The act of Art (with the big A) is something that has been neccessary for all cultures at all times, though not always consciously made.  I think that it is in the bliss of making that we come closest to our unconscious selves, whether it's cupcakes or a new dance move.  Art needs to be without purpose sometimes, because the rest of our life is so very purpose-driven.  We have jobs so we can earn money to pay for our food and shelter - jobs that are not required to be fulfilling.  In fact, jobs which are emotionally fulfilling are frequently taken less seriously than "real" (i.e., soul-suckingly boring) jobs.  We maintain our health (sort of), our families, our friendships.  We spend most of our time responding to the expectations of everyone around us - we are social animals, and our society requires certain things of us.

It's only in purposeless creation that we are free to be only what we want - there is no job description, no expectation, and we're allowed to be completely selfish.  If we want to make a macrame owl on a stick, laminate a jigsaw puzzle, or build a tree house (or a sofa fort), it is something we do purely for our own pleasure.  And I think it is essential to our emotional and spiritual well-being that we set aside this creative time just for us.  This doesn't mean you can't do something with what you create - but as soon as someone else starts telling you what you "should" do with your creativity, no matter how well-meant, hide.

The reason for this is that as soon as you start listening to what someone else is telling you to make, you're making it for them, not for you.  You may be absolutely fabulous at making baby blankets, but if someone tells you you "should" be making matching sets of booties to go with the blankets, and you start doing that, you may be awesome at making booties too, but it's not what you wanted to do, it's what they want you to do.  A little bit of your inner self is squashed every time someone imposes their vision on your creativity.

And people, bless their hearts, cannot help themselves.  They shouldn't, but they try to push and pull the stuff they like into something that works for them - usually with the absolute best of intentions, too, so you can't get mad at them.  This is fine for work, team building excercises, and collaborations, but it isn't as good when it's someone else's hobby.  Each person's vision for their creativity should be respected; there is no reason to tell someone what to do with their inner vision.  It's not like working for a Laurel, or a promotion, or a job; there are no specs or requirements for hobbies, that's why they're so much fun. 

What people may not realize is that as soon as they start telling someone else what they'd like to see them do with their creativity, they're making that creative experience into a job, not a joy.  For the love of all that is personal and precious, don't do this to anyone

I have my own issues, admittedly, but as soon as someone tells me "you should..." I shut down and don't want to do that thing any more.  The only person who can say that to me is Bob, who is wise and understands me better than anyone else. I love feedback, don't get me wrong - and I'll continue to post the results of my rambling approach to life here.  Some things may be developed more, some may stay purely personal.  Some of my work may not be able to go any further - artistically, it is complete within itself.   Sometimes, all I want to do is dabble.  Because dilletantism is all about the dabbling.

There's too much great stuff out there to limit oneself.  Be creative.


( 35 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Feb. 25th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)

I have a TON of different crafts I do, and the mood will strike to do one or another depending on my mood. Some things I do eventually give to Den to put out in the museum shop, and I make a little $$ to cover my costs, and I am happy. (The felted catnip mice have been a HUGE hit!)

However if I think I am ever going to make a TON of money off knitting, or making the Temari, I am delusional and need to be shot. I like making the temari because it's relaxing to me. So what if I have 50 million little Tribbles around the house??

((Editied to correct about a bazillion spelling errors. Obviously I should not be allowed near a keyboard before the first cup of coffee))

Edited at 2009-02-25 01:53 pm (UTC)
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
This is a wonderful post. It's about time I stopped lurking and finally friended you because you are a gifted writer. (As well as a kick *ss costumer!)
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
Well said. I have a knee-jerk reaction to sulk and cry "Don't wanna!" whenever someone says "You should..." and I've never been able to understand that reaction but here you've explained it quite well. Folks think they're doing you a favor, giving you the idea. But they're giving you -work- when I want to have fun comma dammit.
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
In my head, I am saying "you want that? You make it."

But I am evil underneath, just like everyone thinks. :P
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Feb. 25th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks for hitting the nail on the head, AGAIN. I hadn't realized that I'm spending all of my VERY VERY VERY limited time when I can actually DO something (instead of just talking/reading about it) on things that while wonderfully authentic, leave absolutely NO room for my creative spirit. I needed that - thanks.
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this. I'm tired of making obligatory art. It stops being art and takes away my free time by making my joy into a job.
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
Nothing kills art faster than making it conform to someone else's expectations, I find. As soon as "should" comes into the conversation, the "creative" is over.

And it's not selfish to make things for love. Making beautiful things for the joy of it is the ultimate thank-you you can give to the universe.

(no subject) - fiberferret - Feb. 26th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC) - Expand
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Feb. 25th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
This is why I sell patterns, not clothing I've made. My love of sewing is completely obliterated by being forced to do it. I would never encourage anyone to turn their craft or art into a money-making venture. Demand sucks out the joy. You become a drone in a factory.

And I hate hate HATE when people say, "You should slow down. Think of what you could make if you took your time and focused!"

But that's not how I operate. I have to finish the project before my attention span runs out. I know how I work. I don't work well within anyone else's idea of a timeline. I have to work fast before I burn out. And honestly, I don't think my quality would be any better for working more slowly. My quality is pretty good as it is.

When I was in college, my academic advisor advised me to drop French and concentrate on my Japanese. But I did both instead. It was more difficult, but I became fluent in two languages instead of just one.

Focus? Pah. If I focused, I wouldn't have 115 patterns (and counting...).
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Feb. 25th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
I remember my absolute rage when a cousin of my father's went through my sketchbook and re-drew the jawlines on the faces to look more "feminine".

Unfortunately, my family would not allow me to leave a flaming bag of poo on her doorstep.

I was lucky enough to have awesome professors from the very start, but I tended to flummox them because I reacted to everything completely sideways. I even drew from right to left, so in all their lectures about "what everyone does wrong", I was the outlier. This did not please me - I always thought I was a screw-up - but it never stopped me.

Feb. 25th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
Creating art on demand is a real issue in art school. Some just want to create art for art sake, others want to create purely for money. So there is always an ongoing debate between the technical artists and the creative artists in regard to the meaning of expression and degree of which each "type" of artists expresses them selves.

Interesting enough, I am doing some research in Jewelry, and am reading "Artists' Jewellery Pre-Raphaelite to Arts and Crafts." It talks about the mechanicalism of jewelry production and the movement to create jewelry such as that produced in the medieval workshop, i.e. hand made. And the whole "Art for Art Sake" debate.

My stance? I am a creative artist and create for myself, and if profit comes out of it, so be it.
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you Thank you Thank you....your post helps me reevaluate the judgement of myself....:-)

As you well know.
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
Going back to college as an older adult (not 18) and having to sit through a History 1 class was FRIGHTENING. We were talking about the first Europeans to come to the Americas, and one girl (who was 18 or 19) kept piping up with, "Is that where the Pilgrims landed?". She asked that when the teacher was talking about the areas that would become Florida, Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and California.

The professor was then talking about the Southwest Indian tribes in the 1500's and showed a slide of a particular type of corn they grew. It's is 3 1/2 inches long. Same girl piped up with, "Wow, they must have had to cook a lot of that for the First Thanksgiving." I just /headdesked at that point.

Upon a little research, it turns out that in the state of North Carolina, you only have to have one semester of history. You can pick up more with your electives, but most students don't, because it's BORING. It boggles my mind just how much the average high schooler doesn't know about history.

Back in my day, we had history every year, boring or no. But then my fellow classmates, the dinosaurs, died, and I was sad.
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
Oh man, yeah. word.

For me the big trap was, "Lyonnete, you should make garb for other people to showcase your skill!"

Then I ended up with a long list of promised clothing to other people and no desire to go anywhere near my sewing machine. :P
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
I have to admit, I sometimes feel a bit used when people pull that kind of thing, because it comes out less as "get yourself known" and more like - "you can do this, so you owe it to everyone with less talent to make things for them, too".

uh... I do?

I dislike being made to feel guilty for making things. If I want to make something for someone, I will. Right now, I have a massive list of clothing I need to make for Bob. :)
Feb. 25th, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)
I'm having a slight touch of that problem with my friends right now myself. I enjoy the thinking up and making process of all my outfits - wearing them afterwards (while quite nice in itself) is merely the requirement I must stick to in order for my hubby to not have a massive stroke over my fabric habit in the first place. ("You spent all that time (and money!) making that outfit, and you're not even going to wear it??" *insert foamy sputtering*)

As it is, I wear it the one required time, and then shove it into the back of my closet so I can move onto the next one. (Can't wear it again, it's old!) Friends are horrified at this, and are now telling me "You should sell your old outfits if you aren't going to wear them again." I can't seem to find a way to tell them that I can't do that. I sold one outfit I did (and promptly lost so much weight it didn't fit anymore) and regretted it from almost the minute it left my hands.

I may not wear them, but I need them where I can come back and look at them often, both during low points when I think I can't do anything right, and during points when I need to look back at an error to see if I can puzzle out how not to do it again. But it seems like when I try to verbally explain that, it comes out in a different language. =(
Feb. 26th, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
I made the mistake of loaning out costumes that didn't fit me and far too many of them have gotten "lost" I regret the losses. I still feel a lot of pressure to get rid of what I can't "use" myself that is only "going to waste", but I'm trying to ignore it.
Feb. 25th, 2009 05:08 pm (UTC)
I think this is why I am feeling a bit trapped - Ive come to the conclusion that I am definitely a very large square peg trying to fit into a small round hole thats my work! My edges are rubbed raw and my creativity is being squished to nothing!

Thank goodness I have *my* costuming to concentrate on for this year and the CoCo courses to write up. I can focus my creativity to that end on weekends.

BTW - I am still on the lookout for that Wardrobe!
Feb. 25th, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
I have my own issues, admittedly, but as soon as someone tells me "you should..." I shut down and don't want to do that thing any more.

I SOOOOOOOO relate to that! In addition to the common response of not feeling creative anymore, I've also had a bad experience with someone in the SCA about it: what started out as a friendly exchange of ideas/research ended up turning into her someone somehow believing I was her student! I'd already been resisting doing any of the projects she would say 'I want you to do...' because I didn't want to do them (and half the time the projects were not practical in both historical and modern senses other than to show what one could do), but I was left completely speechless when she announced to a group of judges for a challenge that I was her student IN FRONT OF my laurel. Yeesh.

I restrict myself to making gifts for friends. Besides the fact that no one could really afford some of my pieces if I did want to sell them at market value, I tend to want to get on to the next new project rather than spend time doing identical items- I was ready to tear my hair out from boredom by the time I finished my brother's wedding gift (two embroidered heraldic slips that took 3-4 months to complete)
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