In this blog in the past I have addressed the issue of not knowing what to work on next. Personally, I rarely have this problem as there are always dozens of photos in my computer files marked “up next” for me to choose from. On any given day, I might select something different, but in the end those that are meant to be made probably are.
But what I haven’t really addressed in this blog, and have been experiencing lately, is finding it hard to get into the right head space. This is a different problem from not knowing where to go next. This can be a double edged sword, and in fact, a vicious circle.
When I am working on something and embracing the process, being motivated and getting positive results is not a real concern. But my art is what I do to relax and unwind–it is the zen in my life–so when there are other things in my life that get in the way of that zen, it can impact greatly what I can accomplish creatively.
So more specifically, there is a lot going on in my life these days that has me stressed. No, nothing horrendous, just the everyday stuff that sometimes rolls off my back and other times builds and layers until I am feeling overwhelmed and ready to scream. This is exactly when I need to go into the studio and do something for me, but often once I get there I am too stressed out to work.
That is what happened to me this week. Several times I said, “that’s it, I am spending the next two hours in the studio with no interruptions” but everything I touched didn’t go well. Every piece of fabric I chose, everything I put together didn’t work. Nothing was going my way. It was extremely frustrating. And in fact, it was making me even more stressed rather than the opposite.
That is where the vicious circle comes in–need to do art to relax, need to relax to do art. What’s a girl to do??!!?
Here are some of the things I do when this happens:
First, I like to take long walks, usually with the dog (who is a great listener and never interrupts!) especially at my favorite place–the Larchmont Harbour Park. This often clears my head and helps me relax. Watching the water break against the rocks, watching the boats out in the distance. Heavenly. But mother nature did not want to cooperate this week, and gave us frigid cold, rain and wind. Not the conditions under which I feel compelled to take a long walk.
Music can help, too. Depending on my mood, I listen to different music in the studio while working. I have very eclectic taste and so I have sobering music, uplifting music, music the dog and I like to dance to (yes, he is also a terrific dancer), and sing along music with a whole bunch of stuff in between. Uplifting music helps. Dancing music is even better. (thank goodness no one can see into my studio windows–I hope). When I am really overwhelmed, Navajo flute music by Carlos Nikai is the only thing that works for me. When I feel the need for human companionship, I listen to talk radio.
Forcing myself to do something also helps. When I get into this state, it helps to choose something from the up next file that will be easily accomplished. Nothing that requires too much thought or too many changes from the photo can sometimes get the auto pilot in gear and once the final piece looks good, it starts me back on the road to success. That is what happened to me this week.
I am working on my solo show for next summer and working on figures to begin with. Their final resting place in compositions will come later, for now I am just making the figures themselves. So it is easy to move from one to another without shifting gears completely. I started on one that I really loved, but after two or three sessions in the studio she was not working. I put her aside and started another figure, one that was simple and easy to create and I did in a relatively short time frame. When I liked the way she looked, I went back to the other one and scrapped everything I had done. I changed the color story. I looked at her in a different way. She became a different piece from where she had started a few days before. But getting back in the mode made it work.
But the other secret isn’t such a secret at all. The stress needs to be dealt with head on and eliminated. Otherwise, I find myself having the same combative conversations in my head over and over. Wine helps. Off loading some of the combative conversations to my husband helped as well. In the end, letting go of the stuff that was making me crazy wasn’t easy, but necessary.