When I was in high school and the first couple of years into college a lot of my time was devoted to art. I was a full time student and worked only part time, so I had a reasonable amount of "free time" (even though it didn't seem like that at the time!!!). During that time I don't remember struggling with the creative process, quite the contrary, I couldn't turn it off. I was constantly thinking up different projects, and was sparked by the world around me. I would have a hard time settling on which of the dozens of ideas I'd had to start on. It felt like such an integral part of me.
Fast forward a few years and my life shifts. Slowly, I lost touch with my creative side. I rarely sketched, painted even less and let all my supplies gather dust. I was just much "too busy" to do work on anything. I think periodically I would long to create something but couldn't figure out where to start. I just wasn't "creative" anymore.
After my son was born, I had even less "free time", I continued on my life with very little time spent taking care of 'me'. My job can be extremely stressful. I work in a residential psychiatry program, we work with kids whose mental illnesses and behaviors are severe enough to prevent them from maintaining in a less restrictive setting (i.e. home). Although they demonstrate a gamut of high risk behaviors, they stay with us for months at a time to develop the skills they need to manage their illness and behaviors so that they can thrive outside of a locked unit. Seeing as how we serve these children for months, in many ways we try to make this as home-like as possible by allowing them to bring personal items and we get an opportunity to really develop relationships with these kids.
The reason I am going on about this is because it's the round about way I rediscovered that creative spark.
Several summers ago I started working with Ms. M. This girl was sweet, talented and a hot mess. She was incredibly smart and did well in structured settings, not so much outside of locked walls. She would sit for hours and crochet and she was damn good at it. I was fascinated and remembering doing a little hairpin crochet with my grandma when I was a little girl. I asked if she could teach me and she agreed, in a role reversal of sorts. I caught on quick and had a hard time putting it down. I loved it. I crocheted everything (including lots of things that have no business being crocheted). I had a particular affinity for crocheting bags, but these bags needed to be lined and hand sewing was a bitch. So I scoured Craigslist and scored a free machine from a kind gentleman and his wife. I swear it was a hundred years old and only straight stitched but that was all I needed.
Lined bags are one thing but hey, I can sew a straight line, why can't I sew something else? I made some hideous curtains and enrolled in a class to sew a shirt at JoAnn's. I was the only one in the class so I basically got four hours of sewing lessons for the price of the class. The shirt, although it looks like its supposed to, was very unflattering and something that I will never wear, ever. What that class did teach me was how to read a commercial pattern, and some sewing basics when constructing items that aren't flat pieces of fabric.
I found myself wanting to do more and more, I bought some commercial bag patterns and muddled my way though them. The first couple were riddled with mistakes but I completed them. After I had done a few I started learning more about the process, and was able to start adjusting little things here and there. I tried a few more shirts, with varying degrees of success.
Enter Pinterest. So many fantastic sources of inspiration in one place. Who would have thought?!
At this time I was still trying to kindle this little creative spark, I loved finding these tutorials and re-creating these projects but was still struggling to feel that sense of creativity. I felt kinda like I was just copy-catting. Although, I would never steal someone's idea and claim it as my own, it still in my minds eye wasnt "creative" because it wasn't me that came up with it to begin with. Why can't I come up with my own stuff?! I struggled a lot with this. I was convinced that I was no longer creative and was doomed to a life of replicating other peoples great ideas.
I made more and more and tried to learn some new things, the more I learned, the more I wanted to make. The more I made the more confident I felt. The more confident I felt, the more I felt empowered to make adjustments on the way. The more adjustments I made the more "creative" I felt. I started to come to the realization that this idea of "creativity" was not this tangible thing, you can't quantify your creativity by some sense of originality. The creativity was in the process.
Once I had this epiphany, the gates opened. The more I quit worrying about having these completely original ideas and started looking at these sources of inspiration as ways to spark the creative process and realized that in making these items and adjusting them to my tastes, needs, wants etc was no less a part of the creative process. The more I operated on this idea and quit putting myself down, the more I wanted to make.
I felt liberated in a way, and then I started having more of the original ideas that I wanted. Coming to the realization that you didn't need to reinvent the wheel to be "creative" allowed me this sense of creativity that I had been seeking.
Now, I want to do so much, I'm back to that can't turn it off drive to create. I once again feel inspired as I go about my day but seemingly random things and I'm constantly thinking of new ideas. Now the problem once again is picking out just one thing to do.
Once I quit allowing myself to be constrained by the vague idea of creativity, I found that I had what I was looking for all along. This was just my way of rediscovering that side of me. I still don't sketch or paint much these days, and I find that I miss it less than I used to, probably because that creative spark has gone a different direction
and I'm ok with that, I feel like I've reconnected with a part of me I didn't realize I missed so much.