Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Creativity Exercise: Breaking it down

Weeks ago I started writing a creativity exercise about making altered books.   I had the idea, I sat down and wrote a bit, and got stuck.   For weeks.   I'm sure you know how that feels.

It took a while for me to realize that the problem was that I'd bitten off more than I could chew.   I couldn't figure out what to do next.

I do that a lot.

A lot, I tell you. 

It's kind of a problem sometimes.  

I get overwhelmed, then anxious, then cranky.  I worry, I whine.   Then eventually I figure out where to go next and I get going.

And that's the trick!   Figuring out what to do next or what to do first.
Sometimes there are lots of things to do to get to the place where you can get a project done.   For example, I needed to develop another colorway for a new line of yarn.   I kept putting it off.  Stuff kept getting in the way.  This is how it went.  I needed to:
  • Develop the colorway - but Before That I needed to
  • Sit down with my sample books, my color notebook and the colorwheel - but Before That I needed to
  • Find the colorwheel - but Before That I needed to 
  • Clean up one corner of the studio - but Before That I needed to 
  • Clean off the big table in the studio - but Before That I needed to 
  • Get my caboose in the studio.   
There was a lot of stuff standing between me and my new colorway.  Once I figured out what that stuff was, I got my caboose in the studio and cleaned off the table and while I was doing that I put stuff away in the corner and while I did that I found the rolling case with the colorwheel in it.   Then I sat down at the clean table with my wheel, my color notebook and my sample books and played with colors for an hour or so.  Tex-Mex was born.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this process.   A lot of creative block is due to just not knowing the way out of the box to where you want to be.  The key is to figure out where to go next.   This exercise is going to help you figure out where to go next. 

1.  What's your goal?   Pick a project you've been putting off.
2.  Write that goal down.   I am going to _________________.
3.  Now practice thinking backward.    To  finish that project, what are the steps you are going to have to take? 
4.  Remind yourself to take baby steps.   Don't bite off more than you can chew.    You don't have to rush through dinner.   You can enjoy each bite.

Now,  tell yourself:  I am going to start doing ______________, but before that I need to_______________.  
And before that I need to _________________.
And before that I need to _________________.
etc.

Warning:  Don't get carried away.    It's easy to get distracted and end up somewhere completely different. Keep your focus on what you need to do to get to your goal.  Keep it relevant.

Here's another example:    I need to scrapbook the last two years of photos.   Right away I see that there are two big issues:  I need to get the photos and I need to set aside time to do it.   I'm going to go through the Before That process for both issues.

Part 1. Photos
Before I do the scrapbooks, I need to print the photos.
Before that, I need to organize them on this computer.
Before that, I need to get them from the old hard drive to the new computer.
Before that, I need to ask Eric to set aside time to do that and then leave him alone to do it.
Before that, I need to plan on making dinner so that Eric can use that time to work on the computer.
Before that, I need to clean the kitchen.
Before that, I need to do a few loads of laundry...

Stop right there,   I got carried away from my goal.   Scratch the last two - they need to be done, but not with this goal:
Before that, I need to clean the kitchen.
Before that, I need to do a few loads of laundry...

Part 2. Time
Before I do the scrapbooks, I need to clean the studio
Before I clean the studio, I need to finish the dyeing for The Fiber Event.
Before I finish the dyeing, I need to make a list of the dyeing that has to be done
Before I make the list, I need to go through the yarn I have and see what colors I need.
Before I go through the yarn, I need to finish winding the yarn to dye.

It will probably take months before I get all that stuff done, but now I have a plan.  I heart plans.   When I have a plan, I don't have to think so hard all the time.   I just have to start at the beginning and do that one thing.   Before I know it, I'll be done.

If you make enough of these plans, you might begin to notice that some steps appear frequently in your plans.   The steps that appear most frequently for me are:  Clean the Studio and Wind Yarn.   These appear so frequently that whenever I get stuck on any project, I just automatically clean something in the studio or wind some yarn.   More often than not, that is enough to shake something loose and let me get on with the project at hand.

Keep in touch.   Let me know how this exercise works for you.

4 comments:

  1. OMIGOSH! YOU HAVE JUST SAVED MY LIFE! NOT TO MENTION MY NOVEL! I am so doing this. But before I do this I have to tuck my kid in. And before I do that I have to get up from this chair. But before I do that I have to fix this chair so I don't fall over. But before I do that I have to go get a screw driver. But before I do that I have to check the glove box because that might be where it is. But before I do that I have to vacuum the car. But before I do that I have to find the vacuum. But before I do that I have to move the vacuum hose out of my office. But before I do that I have to get a sliver out of my finger. But before I do that I have to sit down. Which is where I started.

    So . . . I'm just not going to get up in the first place.

    How'd I do?

    ReplyDelete
  2. (This really was an awesome post, and I really am going to get my caboose out of the chair and do it.)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Janiel - you are so silly. Did you get the chair fixed?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yep. Bruce got clever with a screwdriver.

    ReplyDelete

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