Though I boldly declared on my About page, when I began this blog, that I was all about embracing creative work for the joy of it (and nothing else), a recent post by the lovely and talented Alexandra Franzen* helped me see clearly that it’s easier (for me) to say such words than to really mean them.
Having my own creative work space means that I no longer have lack of such space as a reason not to engage with the kind of messy projects I’ve long longed to do. But I’m not doing them, and it’s not just because the last month has been so, so ridiculously busy. (Though it has been, and that does have a real impact on what I can do.)
I’ve observed two obstacles getting in my way:
Fear of not being good enough. The kinds of projects I want to do are visual, not verbal. And, I don’t have a lot of skill in this area. How could I? It’s not something I’ve ever made time for in my adult life. But, I really really really like to feel competent. I can re-read a million times Ira Glass’s words on how we have to muddle through the stage of not being very good before we can get good, but I still don’t like it. That I live with a guy who has highly developed visual skills (and an MFA in painting) doesn’t help.
Fear of being frivolous/irrelevant. I’m OK with indulging in visual work when it serves some practical need. So, I’m fine with sewing projects that create something for our home, such as pillows or curtains. But to make something purely decorative (especially when I don’t yet have developed skills)? Or something no one really needs (such as notecards or journals)? I’m having a hard time giving myself real permission to do that. And yet, those are the things I’m longing to do.
These two fears play nicely into each other. It would be OK, I guess, to do frivolous things if I were good at them. But I’m not (yet), so they feel even more frivolous. And, I want to do different kinds of frivolous things–some with paper, some with fabric, some with paper and fabric, some with yarn, some with…. How am I going to get good at anything if I’m constantly flitting from one thing to another?
I want to make things like Mar Cerdà, whose dioramas of Wes Anderson movie sets have been all over the internets recently. Things that serve no purpose other than to delight–but these are really, really good delightful things, aren’t they?
Obviously, on some level, I know this is ridiculous.
I know there is nothing wrong with giving some minutes of our lives to things solely for the purpose of pleasure. It’s not like I’m quitting my job and moving the family to a studio apartment so I can pursue my art. I know there’s nothing wrong with creating kinda crappy art, especially if doing so is necessary to some day producing kinda good art and it’s something we’re doing because we want to do it.
I know (I know!) these feelings are about all kinds of messages we all get from childhood on that are full of crap.
But it’s still hard to get past them. Because the first step in overcoming a problem (even an admittedly first-world one, yet another source of the funny feelings) is to admit it, name it, and share it with someone else, I am doing that here. And I am pledging to indulge in something creative just for the fun of it this week, and to share it here. No matter how not-good it is.
Anyone want to join me? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. 🙂
*I can say with authority that Alexandra is lovely because I’ve met her. She and her beau Brandon put on an amazing weekend brunch here in Portland. If you’re local, check it out. I am not a foodie in any way, but these two could might just convert me.
Link to designboom article: http://www.designboom.com/art/mar-cerda-miniature-paper-movie-set-wes-anderson-02-12-2016/
10 thoughts on “Just for fun”
I have a dollhouse in my basement that I want to decorate for no reason other than because it would be fun and look cool (I have no idea where I’d even put it when I was done). Time is my big limiting factor; I got a couple of adult coloring books for Christmas, and every time I pull one out I think, “I don’t have time to be doing this!” But, really. Sometimes you have to make times for things. Like dollhouses. Maybe not adult coloring books, because the dollhouse sounds more fun.
Making a dollhouse is something I’ve always wanted to do–but haven’t because I have no practical reason for making one. (That’s probably why I loved those Wes Anderson movie set dioramas.) When I was a kid I briefly entertained a career in figure skating. Back then skaters had to do figures, and I remember passing many a figures practice session imagining a dollhouse I wanted to make. Which probably says something about why I never became a skating star. 🙂 Maybe we like that idea because it would allow us to play out our decorating ideas on a more affordable and manageable scale than our houses allow?
I agree with Gretchen, in principle — sometimes you have to make time for things that are purely for fun. But I have a really really really hard time putting this principle into action in my own life. I feel I have spent the last 19 years fighting against both the fear of not being good enough, and the fear of being frivolous/irrelevant. Which probably explains why my current creative projects are limping along and yet I find the time to do things which I know I AM good at. So today, instead of painting a second coat on the curbed library cart (I’m not sure exactly where will this go/what it will be used for = feelings of frivolity), and instead of sewing (I’m working on some clothing for myself but it’s not going well = feelings of not being good enough), I baked muffins (because baking = something I do well + food is relevant).
I may end up “showing you” my sewing projects …. I watched The True Cost last weekend (if you recall, I said I wasn’t going to do that; well, I did 🙁 ), so yeah …. I have a closet of Fast Fashion. Not that I’m actually a fast fashion fashionista; my fast fashion is minimal in quantity and lasts years — unless it shrinks, that is, which is basically what I’m working on sewing-wise, trying to figure out how to re-work otherwise good but too short t-shirts (because Cambodia and Bangladesh and Haiti….). And while I used to be really good at sewing and modifying patterns, I seem to have lost my confidence. I want this to work (I don’t want to waste my time “practicing”), I want to do this in a way that won’t look overly post-apocalyptic (because I’m not sure that’s a good look for a 48 year-old woman) and also I don’t want to cause embarrassment for my 19 year-old daughter should she happen to see her mother wearing it. (Because been there, done that). (All of which is rather a lot of pressure to put upon both the sewer and the shrunken t-shirt, hence the muffins 😉 ).
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Ah, you give new meaning to the term “muffin top.” 🙂 (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
Since watching The True Cost, I’ve found it difficult to add clothing to my wardrobe. I have bought a few things from Old Navy because I know I will wear them into the ground and because I’m having a hard time finding alternatives that I can afford. About the best I can do these days is hope that buying minimally does some good. I’m also giving myself a pass when I buy used. I hope I’m not contributing to demand that way. And, I’ve got some skirt sewing on my to-do list…but I think I’ve been procrastinating on that because I’m feeling a little intimidated, even though the patterns say they are for beginners.
Let’s give each other permission (and some courage) to make some stuff that’s not OK. If your t-shirts don’t work out, you’re not out of anything but the time you spent and a minimal amount of materials. And, you’re probably gaining some knowledge/skills. Sounds like a can’t lose to me.
Oh, I kind of hate that Ira Glass quote! I have a whole rant about it half-written in my head but I can’t write the blog post about it yet because it depends on a creative project I haven’t actually finished. 😛 For now, I’ll just say that his argument implies to me that if you haven’t yet practiced something for 10,000 or whatever hours yet everything you do in that area is doomed to be a mere “exercise,” and to me that’s…distinctly unmotivating.
I totally get wanting to do lots of different kinds of creative things, but worrying that if you don’t focus on one you’ll never be “good enough” or “achieve” anything at any of them. Oh, believe me, I get that! (Maybe we have even discussed this before?)
I guess I choose to hope that all those creative pursuits may look different on the surface, but they are really building a lot of the same skills underneath.
And I think it’s important to try to separate the process of creating from the process of evaluating. To be immersed in the doing when we’re actually doing it, and only later decide: is this something useful/decorative/successful? Or is this an exercise and if so what did I learn from it?
Easier said than done of course!
And sure, I have an unsuccessful muslin from a THIRD tank top pattern that I can show you. Argh.
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It’s so funny, how something that’s motivating to one person can be discouraging to another. I’ve taken comfort in the Glass piece because it helps me understand why I’m not happy with some of my efforts. I like that he seems to be saying that if we want to be good, we can. We shouldn’t expect to find magic right out of the gate. It means we don’t necessarily have to have special talent to do good work. I like those ideas. As I’m getting older and realizing that I don’t have unlimited time to get good/practice/learn, that can be a little discouraging, though. I’m feeling that even in my play, I might want to be purposeful.
But, it does all depend upon the why, I think. More and more, I’m doing things for the flow state, not the finished product. I like being immersed. I like being completely absorbed in what I’m doing. It keeps my head from getting caught in pointless loops that don’t serve me well. It’s not that I’m using creative work to avoid things, but it can keep me from perseverating on difficulties. Much healthier to distract my brain than to numb it, I think.
I’d love to see your THIRD tank top! Once you get it, you’re going to be so happy you kept at it!
I think you’ve managed to say exactly how I feel but in reverse. I’ve been focusing so much time on my knitting and so little on my photography and writing lately. Knitting is tactile. It’s useful. And I’ve done socks so often that just a cursory look at the pattern to make sure I’m getting the right size for the recipient is all that’s required to get a good result. While my writing and photography feel pointless and silly and aren’t turning out at all the way I imagine in my head.
I know I keep referring to yoga lately but my teacher recently reminded us that we say “yoga practice” because we are always learning and growing. She also pointed out that when we were children we learned through play. Play and practice were interchangeable. We didn’t judge our abilities, we just PLAYED and through the play we developed our abilities. So maybe that’s the answer to creative endeavors as well – reminding ourselves that even as adults, we still get to play.
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I agree completely. It’s just that I have to remind myself all the time. I’ve spent so many years maximizing my time–which I needed to do, working full-time and raising kids–that it just doesn’t feel right to “waste” it on something that doesn’t have some kind of immediate utilitarian value. And, honestly, I struggle because this seems like such a “problem” of privilege. And because I feel as if I should be using whatever talents I have to make the world a better place for those who aren’t privileged and don’t have what they need. I don’t really have time to work at that AND to indulge in creative play.
Really, these are the questions/dilemmas that have plagued me my whole life. I suppose I have to keep revisiting them and poking at them until I finally figure something out.
I can know I need to make time for creative pursuits in my heart but still struggle with guilt in my head after all these years. I was raised in a rather strict German Lutheran farming/working class family, and the work ethic was very strong. That’s not a bad thing! But it left me with a life-long feeling that I “must” get to the end of the to-do list before I can do something “just for fun.” But we all know that in real life, the to-do list never ends. Responsibilities and chores all the way down to….the end of your sanity, if you don’t learn to take breaks. I’m always a little at war with myself over this, even though I should know better by now.
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Oh, yes–the to-do list does never end! I think realizing that (not all that long ago) is what’s given me some release to do things that are just for fun. I’ve got a good chunk of German in my DNA, too, so I know how that goes.