I’ve been in a bit of a creative funk lately.
I’ve been writing and doodling and even painting, but I’ve felt off – antsy and unfocused. Last weekend, I figured out what was wrong. In January of this year, I took all these little parts of myself – writer, doodler, inexperienced insanely hopeful creative entrepreneur – and I opened my Etsy shop. And though I’ve made money on my writing in the past, the Etsy sales felt different. More than ever before, fueled by nothing but deep-down desire and blind optimism, I felt I was taking charge of my life as an artist.
So when, a few weeks ago, I noticed I wasn’t having as much fun, wasn’t leaping about as I had been in the beginning, wasn’t grabbing hold of my ideas and dancing them to creation, I didn’t know what to make of it. I thought maybe I’d made a mistake. Maybe I wasn’t the right kind of person to make a business out of doing what I love.
Then, over the weekend, I pulled out my watercolor pencils (which I’ve had for months and never used), and I made this:
Part of me had so much fun doing it – playing with way more color than I usually do, learning how the pencils work, getting over my irrational fear of paint. But there was this other part, too, the naysayer that lives in my head, who was convinced I was wasting my time. “This is silly,” she said, “and also dumb. Why aren’t you designing something new for the shop? Why aren’t you working on that Huffpo piece, or submitting to a new market, or setting up your accounting system, or painting the hallway?”
I ignored her and kept going (though she’s right; the hallway does need paint in a big way). When I finished, I posted the colorful doodle on Facebook and, as usual, my friends were wonderful, enthusiastic and encouraging, even though I hadn’t told them about my funk, even though they didn’t know I was in dire need of some enthusiastic encouragement.
Not to paint, as it turns out… but to play.
It hit me as I read their comments that I haven’t been playing. I haven’t been writing just to write, or drawing just to draw, or doodling just to see what unfolds on the page. I haven’t been experimenting. I haven’t played with new mediums or tried a whole new art form. I signed up for a collage class three weeks ago but I haven’t yet attacked my first canvas.
What I’ve done instead is get too serious about it all. I opened an Etsy shop and became my own task master, robbing the creative process of all its fumbling, faltering, messy fun.
Here’s what I know. As artists, whether we write or paint or draw or dance or sculpt or take pictures or play music or sing, we will never make the beautiful art we’re capable of if we’re afraid, at first, to make crap. To waste time. To try things that don’t work in search of the thing that does.
So in honor of my revelation, I’m doing a new 30-Day Challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I’m going to make something. If I start on a project and realize that it will take longer than a day to finish, then I’ll take a break and doodle something fun in the interim, or maybe whip up a dirty limerick. (Just made myself laugh, but it is definitely NOT out of the question. The point is to play.)
The challenge will be to actually finish something new every day. I don’t know what it’ll all look like at the end of 30 days, but I’m determined to have 30 new things to share.
I actually started yesterday. Here’s what I made:
If you feel you need a creative kick in the ass, join me! I will absolutely cheer you on. (If you’re on Facebook, I may even check in to see how you’re doing.) And then, in 30 days, we can play show and tell.
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I’m excited, which is almost always a good thing!