I’ve been having horrible insomnia lately. The kind where you toss and turn and keep looking at the clock because that window of time between sleep and the alarm gets increasingly short. I’m guessing because there’s a whole lot of stuff swirling around in my head. Some of it’s low-bubbling anxiety that I’m trying to prevent from surfacing, but most of it is actually good things, ideas that are in the very early stages of incubation, or in my case, trying to incubate.
Brenda, a very talented designer and long time blog reader, asked me to participate in her Get Fueled series where she asks creative people about their process. This essay was a bit of a challenge because I’m not exactly sure what my creative process is and quite frankly, I’m not even sure I properly answered Brenda’s question. So I rambled instead (very typical). I might very well have a process that I’m not consciously aware of, but it did make me realize that I do have a different process as a designer than I do when I’m creating work of my own. One of things that I was finally able to articulate for myself in answering this question is that for me, I see design and art as 2 very separate disciplines and they often can’t co-habitat successfully in the same creative space in my brain.
For obvious reasons of needing to make a living and supporting my family, I’ve been a designer for the majority of the second half of my life, whereas art and writing music was all I did for the first half. I really do admire people who can churn out a drawing or a piece of art every day, but I’m not that person. I think I really need to totally immerse myself in whatever I’m doing without any distractions and THIS is what I think my process is as an artist – to have the freedom and the time to just stare at a blank piece of paper for hours if I need to and then run with an idea all night. There’s something to be said about the luxury of time in that regard. I sometimes look back to when I was younger in school and wonder, was I more creative back then? Why can’t I be that prolific now? But then I realize it’s because of that luxury of time when I didn’t have to wake up to a job or a deadline or raising kids. I didn’t do anything else but create. I’m sure that my age has a lot to do with it, as well as the fact that my kids are growing into people right before my eyes, but I have college and retirement so much on the brain right now. You need money for both, and that’s where my focus has been lately.
But isn’t being a designer creative? Yes. But for myself, the answer is also no. I think I’ve always looked at being a designer as a job, separate from other creative processes. I never thought of myself as being particularly good at being creative on demand, so I think it’s a bit ironic that I ended up being a designer where work is always deadline based. But as I mention in that essay, I think those constrictions and parameters have been very good for me. And let me back up a bit when I wrote earlier that I admire those people who could churn out a drawing a day. The fact is, I am being creative everyday when I’m working. I’m not churning out drawings or paintings, but I am designing and when I’m done working for the day, the last thing I want to do is go draw. Photography, however, has been an enormous breakthrough in terms of trying to fit in personal creative work with freelance work. It’s a little less daunting than being faced with a blank canvas and that’s been really instrumental in getting back to being actively creative again. I think this is primarily why I’ve resisted trying to turn photography into anything other than a hobby.
But getting back to that insomnia. I think I’m having anxiety because I’m feeling so creatively empty these days. Work has been steady and great lately, but recent projects haven’t been creatively interesting. Ironically this might very well be the reason why I have the head space to think about personal projects right now. I’ve been thinking a lot about some work that I did in college, a series of mixed media photo collages – and later Photoshop collages when I was learning Photoshop in the mid 90s – incorporating old photos and new photos. The idea has piqued my interest again. The challenge, of course, is finding time (it’s ALWAYS about time, isn’t it? It’s the bane of my existence, really, being pulled in so many directions every day and never feeling like I’m caught up), but I’m determined this year to try and make it work and see where it leads. I am still very interested in collaborations with other people and I think this is ultimately where I’d find the energy of the creative process most invigorating since I work so much on my own a lot of the time, but life schedules have made this a challenge and in the end, a failure. So I’m finding that I need to turn inward. Whatever the means, it’s time to get creative again.
P.S. I think I might be the queen of rambling blog posts. Guess I didn’t get that memo that nobody has the attention span to read long blog posts anymore, sheesh.