Breaking the Mold Without Breaking Myself

Creativity is a bit like a butterfly net. A butterfly net can be a tool, an unused artifact, a source of silly visual jokes and metaphors – determining its significance requires perspective. Most of us don’t have a butterfly net on hand at any given moment, and a net doesn’t do much on its own.

Someone needs to pick it up and be ready to act, and then there are always more questions:

  • Where are the butterflies?
  • Am I going after the right butterflies?
  • Should butterflies be caught, mounted in a collection, bred in captivity… or in this case are they better admired in the wild?
  • How many is enough?
  • What is this other thing that landed in my net?
  • Is running around waving a net really the best use of my time?

Weekend Off? Wax On

This is post 23, published on day 31 of my goal of 101 posts in 101 days. I’ve been writing every day and posting almost every day. Along with publishing 23 new finished posts, I’ve saved about 12 new drafts and made about three more “draft” pages that are lists of ideas and links I like, and my “ideas” notebook is beginning to fill up.

At about post #10 I noticed that writing was getting easier, though writing something finished every day was harder. I decided to try posting twice in one day once in a while, still working on drafts when I wasn’t going to post that day. That may not be the best path for me: the need for a day off got stronger, and finishing things got harder.

Part of the problem was feeling like I’d let go of discipline by not posting every day, though sometimes, hey, the fruit is on the tree but not ripe for picking, if you know what I mean. I decided to experiment with purposefully taking time off from posting and writing, to see what would happen between my ears. Would I get better results from “I will take this weekend off,” or from “I will do all I can and take a day to myself if I need it?” Not posting for a day, no matter how purposeful, didn’t feel much different from slacking off because of burnout. Something was missing.

A couple of weeks ago I forced myself not to post over the weekend, and it was a surprising experience.

During that two days I had a sudden flood of creative ideas and even some practical ones. I felt like I’d experienced something wonderful about balancing pushing myself with leaving open space, and I was eager to get back to work. Then, that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were exhausting, like pulling my own teeth while under the influence of not enough anesthetic. I was more tired than before giving it a rest.

Observations:

  • Change of pace is good for creativity.
  • Getting self-discipline going after a break is hard.
  • Balancing the two is challenging!

Discipline Is Good For Learning and Building

Achieving something when creativity comes to call requires that skills and tools are in place ahead of time. Skills and the use of tools requires practice, practice and more practice – like exercise. Every exercise that requires effort builds something.

Working out is like making art

Drawing every day improves coordination. Hand-eye coordination, small muscle coordination, and the big stuff of muscle memory are all grown in the brain and the body, through practice and desire. Instinct may be inborn, but the ability to do something with it or even to notice opportunities is not automatic and doesn’t happen over night.

Art students are sometimes advised to put their heart into every drawing, but not to expect to be making precious objects. Draw every day for the experience of drawing, and expect the first hundred to be throw aways. After the first hundred, drawing is a little more likely to occasionally result in art. Experimenting with CSS can feel much the same way. ;-)

Regular practice is essential. Without daily practice the coordination starts to go, and then the would-be artist is left with hope and vision, or hope for a vision, or maybe just insecurity and desire: one of the side effects of practicing through clumsiness is a quiet bravery.

Bravery comes in handy. The creative process can be ruthless and klutzy, like a kid running around with a butterfly net.

The Plan

The goal is still 101 posts in 101 days. If I need to go to six posts a week to stay human, that’s OK, but the existing goal is still 101 posts in 101 days. At the end of the road will be a sense of identity (brand) for this space.

The plan is to post daily except for weekends. Though it’s Sunday evening here, you’re hearing from me today because I felt like it. Weekends are mine.

Insert evil laughter?

Who let that blogger out without a net?

Seriously, though, here’s a forecast for the week to come:

  • Three more tutorials
  • An interview with the delightful Dazzlin D – we’re going to talk about community. Yum.
  • Between two and four other I-don’t-know-whats, to include a drawing of some sort.

Is this hasta la vista, or how can I hasta la forest for the vista of the trees, from my viewpoint of this rectangular screen where we meet? Either way, trees are cool and I’m up for a good walk.

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