What makes today a breakthrough day is that: 1) I have committed myself to some goals; 2) I have been able to take some steps toward them. Oh, happy day!
I transformed a mundane desk calendar/date book into a creative playground/mess book. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a “pretty” book. Nice hardcover with soft calf-skin leather, embossed with the bank’s logo (1.25” tall and 5” wide so you can’t miss it), and the pages are edged with silver. Inside pages are smooth and substantive without being cover weight—you can’t see the outline of my hand if I shine a light on it. Unfortunately, the lines are too dark and the format isn’t really conducive for a creative like myself who prefers blank or very lightly lined/grid pages.
So what’s the big deal?
When I was younger, I used to doodle all the time—with different media, colors, shapes, formats on all kinds of surfaces. I didn’t care if it was good or how it might be perceived/received. I was quite proud of and satisfied with myself and my creations.
And then something happened.
I became my own worst enemy and harshest critic. I stopped allowing myself from making a mess. No more gratuitous marks. Everything had to have a purpose. Most importantly, it had to look
good decent. [“Decent” as in fit for everyday public viewing, though not necessarily something I’m happy with or proud of.]
I realize I’d set some crazy rules and standards for myself. I had an abundance of gorgeous and expensive journals, sketchbooks, and high-quality art supplies, but told myself that I wasn’t allowed to use it for just anything. Whatever I made had to be perfect or as close to perfection as possible. A masterpiece. A work of art with a capital “A.”
In fact, I only realize now that I chose to do my roughest roughs/brain dumps on scratch paper in order not to sully beautiful blank pages with crap. (Even my word choices reflect how little I thought of them.) In my mind, I heard my inner saboteur say, “You’re only as good as the last[crappy]piece you made.”)
I felt more comfortable scribbling with restaurant crayons on a paper tablecloth or placemat than I did in my sketchbook. I regret it now because some of the raw, effortless ideas turned out to be better than I could have imagined—if you can believe that. What’s worse is that in my quest for perfection, I’ve produced nothing—or at least nothing of significance to me.
This year I’ve decided to make some changes. I will allow myself to make a mess-terpiece (or pieces) starting with the Pretty Book. If I’m lucky, I’ll move onto other Pretty Books in my collection. (I say “Pretty Book” with sarcasm/irony. One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing designers refer to their work as “pretty” or describing their role as “making things ‘pretty.'”)
To satisfy my austere, purposeful self, I’ve started sections/pages which list my goals, action items, wish list—anything that might be relevant to me and/or my creative recovery. I’ve also decided to celebrate small victories—indicate when I accomplish something, finish a project, do a task that supports my goal—on some of the month-at-a-glance pages.
To encourage playfulness and to nurture my Inner Child, I’ve decided to ignore lines, dates, markings; make a mess and have fun. I told myself not to be afraid to move onto another page even though I haven’t finished the one before it. I’ve decided to use a wide range of supplies—markers, colored pens, pencils, rubber stamps, glitter glue, stickers, and perhaps even paint. I’m invoking my inner graffiti artist, idiot savant, Renaissance master, messy child.
By allowing myself to create on precious paper with precious supplies (I visualize Gollum from Lord of the Rings as he speaks of his “Precious”), I’m elevating everything that I put on the page and telling myself that nothing is useless crap. Just fertilizer.
Even though I might be disappointed with some of my outcomes, I’m learning important lessons which might not always be apparent and discovering what doesn’t work. But one day something will work, as long as I keep experimenting and experiencing.
I will work on not negatively judging or labeling my efforts. Open mind, endless possibilities. I will celebrate small victories because one day they will be great ones.
Rinse and repeat.
Thought for the day:
I create because I can’t help it. I create because I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I create just because.