Category Archives: Creativity

Art store field trip!

I’m not an artist and I never have been, but today I walked into Blick Art Materials in Dearborn, Michigan. I was there because they supposedly carry Rhodia pads and I’m desperately wanting something that isn’t a staple bound notebook. I imagined walking in and finding every Rhodia imaginable but alas, they only had a small supply of the staple bound books. To top it off, I accidentally bought a graph paper #16 which bums me out even further.

Besides my Rhodia hunt, I was there for another purpose. I decided that I was going to buy a sketchbook and some pencils or charcoal and then force myself to draw. If you’ve read my blog much, you know that I’m currently struggling to open the creative side of my brain which seems to have been walled off in recent years. I can’t seem to bring myself to doodle in my journals, so I purchased a 9×12 sketch pad with perforated pages so I have the freedom to sit down, sketch something, and always have the option to throw it away with nary a trace of it having existed. I also grabbed a 12 pack of Prismacolor pencils to draw with.

The Blick store in Dearborn is a tiny little place but the amount of artist materials on display is quite frankly overwhelming. I wandered down almost every aisle in awe at the sheer number of options an artist might have. Standing in the pencil aisle, I had to wonder how anyone could keep track of what pencil they need or want. I have a new found respect for anyone who has a good art supply collection as it seems like it might be a bit of work to amass. ūüėČ

I also picked up a 3 pack of Writersblok notebooks but upon arriving home, I see that Notebook Stories already reviewed them and found their paper to be very thin. Oh well, those can go in the drawer of unused notebooks for a later day.

Now, I must try to break in the new sketchbook.

Learning how to use a journal

The subject is probably a bit confusing; how to use a journal? Easy, write in it! Allow me to take you on a journey through my mind.

To me, a journal has always been a continuous flow of text. Regardless of my age, that’s what my mind pictured when I heard the word “journal”. A 14 yr old girl sitting in her room writing in her journal/diary? In my mind I saw that to mean sentence after sentence of how she’s in love with (insert kid at school here) and nothing more. Someone of a bit more experience in the world who journals? I figured they must be writing about their day or taking notes on ideas they have floating in their head. A journal held a massive amount of words and nothing more.

About 2 years ago I discovered fountain pens and was suddenly plunged into a world of creative folk who used their pens for more than just scribbling notes on a 79 cent notebook. These are the people I always imagined would use a journal. I imagined them wielding a fountain pen and writing their innermost secrets on creamy ivory pages of their expensive leather bound journal. They spent their time chronicling¬†their every move so they’d be able to look back on it in years to come and see the a portrait of their mind at the time, frozen in place on paper.

Then I started noticing people who weren’t using their journals as a boring line by line record of their life, they were writing poems, doodling, drawing, and painting. ¬†Everything on their pages reflected something, whether it be a moment in their life or a picture in their head, they were journaling in a way completely foreign to me. I myself stayed locked in the line by line idea of the journal and, try as I might, could never get away from it.

I simply must experience this form of journaling. If you were to sit down and read my current notebook/journal, you would see a progression over 2 years (yes, one notebook in 2 years.. sad isn’t it?) where I fill the pages with sentences and paragraphs don’t deviate from that style. Then you’ll see a page from last week where I filled a page with nothing but random thoughts. It sounds simple yet it was oddly invigorating. I was breaking the “rules” of journaling in my mind and it was a whole lot of fun. I can’t seem to switch myself over to that method yet, but I’m trying.

I’d like my journals to be a collection of my current mood, feelings, pictures in my head, ¬†etc.. ¬†I don’t want only sentences, ¬†I want something visual that does more than bore you to death with poor grammar and spelling. I want my journal to be full of¬†spontaneity¬†and feeling, and one day I’d like to be able to sit down with my journal and doodle on it. I don’t know why that’s so hard to do, perhaps I fear the finality of ink on paper and not being able to correct the thing I’ve written or drawn. It’s as if my mind has set up a fence at the edge of boring journal entries and demanded I not cross it for fear of failure.

But what can I fail at? It’s my journal, it’s my paper, it’s by my hand. There should be no fear involved here, it should be organic and free, it should flow from my brain uninhibited by these crazy thoughts of failure. If you don’t want someone to see it, lock it up. If you’re afraid of what might come out, perhaps you shouldn’t worry until that happens and just let your brain go free!

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go try to climb this wall my mind has put in my way. See you on the other side!

Any suggestions on how to make this transition would be greatly appreciated!

I have to quit trying

I mean I need to quit trying so hard. This is advice given to me by more than one person and the more I think about it, the more true it rings.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I seem to mainly whine about how I can’t find my muse and I’m a lousy creative person and I can’t do anything. Let me establish some proof.

Last night I spent all night fiddling around on Twitter and pen websites instead of doing anything constructive. In the back of ¬†my head, I wanted to pick up my journal which I haven’t used in 7 months. But that’s sort of a daunting task for me and I think it’s because I feel pressure to be great. ¬†How can one be great in their own journal? It’s just supposed to be MY thoughts and I can’t be wrong if I’m writing things that are in my head… right? Who feels pressure to perform greatness in a journal?

Finally I forced myself to turn away from the computer and grab my journal. I selected my Pelikan M200 filled with MB British Racing Green, put nib to paper,  and waited to see what happened. What came out of me was this odd list of things I observed about my behavior prior to picking up my pen. It was kind of refreshing because my journaling has always been very methodical; I sit down, write out several correctly formatted paragraphs, and put the journal away. This entry had nothing in common with my previous entries, it felt spontaneous and  very different.

Then I sat down with another notebook, this one is an idea book where I’m hashing out ideas for projects or just random thoughts about things. I wanted to perform a very simple task: draw a very simple registration screen for a website I’m fiddling with. It consisted of maybe 5 rectangles and yet I balked at the job. I sat there staring at the blank page with my Sharpie pen in hand and wondering where to start.

Where to start? Draw a frickin rectangle you dope!

Eventually I managed to scrawl out a very simplistic mockup that should have never even given me pause at all. Once it was done, I felt sheepish. It took that much energy to draw a few rectangles in a notebook? Why am I so crazy?

I think at some point I got the idea in my head that things on a notebook page need to be perfect, even if it’s just something I’m using for ideas. I’m a perfectionist with everything I do, yet I’m not capable of being perfect. See the conundrum there? I can’t be perfect because I’m not an artist, yet I won’t try unless it’s perfect, even when it’s supposed to be a rough sketch. There has to be a term to describe this level of insanity.

This week I think I’m going to force myself to doodle. Can you believe I won’t even doodle because I fear it won’t turn out right? That’s right, I won’t doodle because it might look stupid. Someone smack me in the head please.

Am I a writer?

This is a question I’m sure a lot of us ask ourselves. I don’t, because I’m pretty sure I’m not.

Last night I was perusing my Twitter account and found an interesting article linked by @richardink. His tweet pointed me to a blog entitled “Write to done” which was new to me but now resides in my bookmarks of good blogs to read when I have time. In an article entitled “Are you a Writer? Really?“, Mary Jaksch touches on the fear of proclaiming ones self a writer.

The article’s message bounced around in my head all day. Am I a writer because I’ve had a few short lived blogs? Am I a writer because I scribble random thoughts into a notebook? Do my incredibly spotty journal entries make me a writer? What about the handful of short stories (for the lack of a better term) or that unfinished zombie themed novella I started writing last year? Does any of this make me a writer?

My thoughts seem to echo hers, she actually has a book published and still can’t consider herself a writer. In my case, I know I’m writing something but I don’t feel like I write.

I’ve had this fantasy of being a writer for a very long time. Despite this rather ambitious dream, I can rarely bring myself to actually sit down and write. Blog posts? Easy. Author something of substance like a short story or novella? Incredibly hard. My brain insists that a writer actually has to author something “real” like a book or be employed at a magazine or newspaper. Surely my pitifully small lifetime word count can’t make me a writer… can it? According to Mary, it sure does.

So if you write something, anything, do what I’m going to do. Find a mirror, stare into it, say “I’m a writer” and see if, with enough repetition, you start to believe it.

Where do I find a poker?

I have a problem and it’s with my creative fires. I look through the bits of fiction I’ve written, my old journals, or even stuff I’ve made in Photoshop and most of the time I can’t recognize it. I know I created it, but it doesn’t sound like me. Maybe it’s how my brain changes directions so often, but it seems like I’m inspired with creativity at odd intervals in life.

I can remember a time when I was very into photography. I never really produced anything that amazed me but I was experiencing creativity at some level. I remember looking at objects and trying to find the best way to convey it to my viewers. As with everything I had the flawed underlying belief that my level of progression came from the quality of the tool I used. When my hard earned $$ went into good equipment and the output didn’t increase accordingly, I bailed out of the hobby. I still sort of regret that.

I also remember being consumed by music, I had a palpable hunger for new music. I loved going to concerts, I was pumped by new albums, I basked in the joy of a new band. I became obsessed with Coheed and Cambria, they literally swept me off my feet when I started to listen to them. Such talent, not just in the instruments, but the lyrics; an amazing combination of darkness, evil, melody, and yet somehow poppy. Coheed took me away to a place I had never been taken by a band before. I suddenly understood why people got band tattoos, and I have their Keywork symbol inked between my shoulder blades to prove it. I literally hung on every word that Claudio wrote, I felt every beat of Josh’s drum, my heart quivered with the thump of Mike’s bass, my brain screamed with every riff that Travis laid down, every nuance of their music spoke to me. Where did that go? I still love them more than any other band I’ve ever heard so I can assume it’s not all gone, but it’s just a shadow of what it used to be.

Maybe that doesn’t technically have anything to do with creativity, but I think it does. The brain needs outside stimulation to be creative but mine sits numb these days regardless of what I throw at it.

Something inside of me wants to be creative, I know this. I love notebooks and paper, I have 2 drawers in my desk that are full of empty notebooks that I bought when the paper spoke to me. I have a ton of different pens and a rainbow of ink, yet when I’m faced with the blank page, I can’t come up with anything. Is it fear? Am I forcing something that doesn’t exist? Surely I’m not attracted to the blank page for naught?

So how do you spark creativity? Give me some ideas on how to stoke the tiny little embers smoldering inside my brain. At this point, I’m willing to try anything.