Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where Has the Love Gone?

I considered a number of (cheesy) titles for this blog posts: When Bad Beading Happens to Good Beaders, Beads Gone Bad, etc., etc. Really, though, what I want to talk about is what happens, and what to do, if/when your Muse leaves you. (And yet the cheesiness persists - for some weird reason, this statement conjures up images of Olivia Newton-John in "Xanadu", but maybe that's just me. I can only hope. If you are too young to know about what the heck I am talking, don't tell me - I don't want to know.)

This past Monday, I woke up and had a genuine urge to make beads, design jewelry and even write about the whole process. I really hate to admit it, but I haven't had this urge for a long time. I don't know if it's been evident to you, but it's been wildly evident to me that I've been in a slump. A big one. A long one. A big crater of creativity, so to speak. I didn't want to admit it to anyone, because, frankly, I was embarrassed. How could I admit that I was having trouble coming up with original designs? How could I possibly inform you that I felt bizarre ones like the above were perfectly wearable? (Can you believe I actually submitted this photo to a magazine? What was I thinking? My abject apologies to Joan Miller, the artist of the perfectly beautiful ceramic bead at the center of this fiasco. Joan - I've ripped apart this piece, and I'm already working on a new one that will hopefully be much worthier of your bead.)

However, the more I pondered the problem, the more I became convinced that this must happen to everyone at some time or another, right? Right? (Again, if you don't understand what I'm saying, I don't want to know.) So, I thought it would be interesting to open this up for discussion (if anyone would care to discuss it with me). When you hit a slump, when you're sitting around worrying about the economy, when your morale is low, what do you do (apart from feel frustrated)? Here are a few things that I tried, that have been helpful:

1. Get more sleep. I tend to burn the candle at both ends. During the day, I wear my Mommy hat and spend my time discussing urgent issues with the Short One such as whether chocolate ice cream is on the menu, where groceries comes from, when Santa Claus is likely to visit again and whether Donald Duck will be wearing a red tie today. At night, the hat goes in the closet and I don my cape and mask (uh, in the privacy of my own home) and turn into Bead Lady. Sometimes Bead Lady refuses to leave until the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, the SO often gets up shortly after the wee hours of the morning. Thus, I have pretty much been sleep deprived since the stork brought the SO to our doorstep, and it shows. Lately, members of my family have been eyeing me with the nervousness afforded to a ticking bomb. After some grumbling (I don't like admitting that I'm wrong), and as BL wasn't producing much anyway, I started going to bed shortly after the SO. It's amazing what getting reasonable amounts of sleep has done for my perspective on life.

2. Put aside work that simply isn't coming together for you, but, no matter what, keep working. In retrospect, I feel that 98% of the stuff I produced over the past couple months hasn't been very good, and I have a lot of false starts that are still lying around, waiting to be saved or ripped apart. However, I kept slogging away, and I still have that 2% to show for it, work that I actually like in spite of everything. That 2% has kept me sane and interested in continuing with this whole beady experience.

3. When you take a break, do something completely unrelated, like going to see a movie, reading a book, visiting a museum. Much of my inspiration comes from reading. I have a background in English Renaissance literature, but I haven't formally studied in the field since the early 90's. I find that going back to my favorite works by Donne, Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, etc., etc. relaxes me and reminds me why I loved the field. It also, despite myself, gets the beady portion of my brain percolating with new ideas. When you come right down to it, though, almost any interesting experience is fodder for design, as far as I'm concerned.

4. Participate in a design challenge. I don't know about you, but sometimes, it's a lack of focus that's the problem for me. Participating in a challenge can help, by providing the starting point, in the form of a theme, for inspiration to strike. In fact, I started seriously designing beads and jewerly initially by participating in the monthly challenges held by Art Bead Scene. Most of the first designs I had published were all works I created through the lens of an Art Bead Scene challenge. I'm probably too late for this month, but one of the big items on my to-do list right now is to participate more regularly in the ABS, and other, challenges.

I've had a solid, creative week this week, and I'm quite hopeful that I'm emerging from the other end of my slump. However, I'm still interested in knowing what you do when you hit a block. If you feel like sharing, please leave a comment below.

Thanks for visiting.


Alicia @ Oh2122 said...

Thanks for sharing your slump with us. I'm in a bit of one myself. The whole SAHM, you have 45 minutes so go be creative.... NOW! thing is wearing on me.

I do need to step back and take a deep breath every so often. Thanks for the reminder!

Melissa J. Lee said...

Hi Alicia, We have to stick together (but I must admit, I did have to look up "SAHM". D'oh. It made me feel like kind of a fraud - you think I would know my own acronym by now)!

I keep reminding myself that in a few years, the SO will not want to spend ANY time with me, so I need to get my quality time in while I can (and while he's still willing to tell me about his day)...

Lisa said...

Hi there! Great article! Ironically, i was just writing about "feeling the love" while making something your logical brain tells you might not be exactly "right". I hope you don't mind me saying so, but I think the piece in the photo is sweet. Have a great evening! Lisa C.,

Melissa J. Lee said...

Hi Lisa, Thank you - you are sweet for saying so! I think there are elements in this piece that are usable, but on the whole, (now that I've come to my senses), I do not think it works. Going over my recent unsuccessful pieces, I believe I had a lot of trouble with _balance_. Oh, well, live and learn!

Carter said...

Hi Melissa-
We all feel this way. Or I know I do. It's like a cycle for me, and I move through it much better now that I am aware that it seems to happen to me once every few months. It was nice to read this post and see how other artists move through and forge ahead.
I hope you have another super-duper creative week ahead!

Melissa J. Lee said...

Carter, Thanks so much for sharing and for the support. Since I work on my own in the wee hours of the morning, I think I tend to get a little paranoid about, well, everything. It's good to know that others work through these phases, too.

Lisa R said...

First off, I .. um .. remember "Xanadu"(darn it!) Secondly, I've definitely gone through slumps and time periods when other people's idea of 'real life' intrudes with my idea of a perfect life. And I'll have all these beautiful beads sitting there and not one single idea of how to put them together in a unique and WOW manner.
So, what I do is put the beads and my tons of beading magazines & books away, read some new mystery novel, go for a few walks (which, God knows, is probably even good for me), watch a musical or a comedy - you get the idea - I basically do something totally unrelated to beading.
For a day, or a week, or whatever it takes. After a little while of this, I take note of some colors that go together rather nicely and, gee whiz, don't I have some beads almost that shade of green? and I pull out my beads and the muse is back! (sorry, couldn't resist)
And kids grow up way too fast - my baby is almost 31. :-(

Melissa J. Lee said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for sharing (and whatever happened to ELO, anyway?)! I can't believe how fast kids grow. I never noticed the passage of time so much as I do now, with a child in the house.