10 March 2009

Week 2: Shaking Off the Boxes

For my second week of my Weekly Make, I was in Disney World. Which was awesome. Magic and inspiration were everywhere. But my time and supplies for making were limited. So this week lead to a make that was not quite so impressive or useful as a purse. But this little endeavor isn't about making impressive things. It's about being disciplined in creative action and doing something without so much worry about the result or what you're going to do with the result. So what I had with me was a new sketch set that I got at Barnes & Noble. I've been meaning to make one rather than buy one--I have this really sweet idea for another messenger bag with slots sewn in for pencils and a special pocket for a sketch book--but like so many other issues I have with making stuff, my vision far exceeds my skill and my discipline. I over-complicate the project, and I hardly ever even start let alone finish. So rather than waiting around until I actually could put in the hours to make my perfect little vision, I went out and bought a sketch set. And this is the sketch I sketched in it while waiting in the airport on Valentine's Day:
To you, this might just seem like a silly little sketch. And it is. It's Jason and me sitting on a stump. He's reading Greek, and I'm reading Twilight. Clearly, a silly little sketch. But for me, this marks a major milestone. Growing up in a family of 3 girls, in order to avoid sibling rivalry, each of us had our own little category. Amy was the pretty one. Megan was the talented one. And I was the smart one. This little system extended into extra-curriculars, too. For instance, Amy and Megan did babysitting, so I didn't. (And now, incidentally, I have no idea what to do with a baby.) I started taking art lessons, but then Megan started taking art lessons, and she was amazing. So I stopped. I let her have her thing. I didn't even doodle! As it turns out, Amy and Megan didn't ascribe to the system nearly so much as I did. Maybe it was because I was the youngest, seeking out some solid identity in the shadow of 2 amazing sisters who went before me. When I got into Wheaton and I could no longer be the smart one, I started to identify myself in other ways. The one I clung to the tightest was songwriting, and for a long time, that was my medium for my creative outlet, therapy, and self-definition.

I haven't given up on songwriting, but it's harder now. It's been bundled up with a lot of baggage, and it doesn't hold the healing it once held. So I'm looking to other creative media. And that has been difficult. Because drawing is Megan's thing. And all other craftiness is Amy's thing. And then there's my mom who can do everything (although she was never boxed up in my little system...mostly because I want to be just like her and feel no guilt in being a shameless little copy-cat).

To make a very long story just a little shorter, the point of this post is that this little sketch marks a turning point in my creative permission. I will never be an artist like Megan is. I will never be able to match her perfect skill for portraits and shadowing and realism. But I can and will pick up a few colored pencils and draw. Even if it's silly. Even if it ends up looking terrible. I will allow myself to take the vision from my imagination and express it on paper, and I will silence the voices in my head that say, "It's not worth it because it will never look as good as you imagined." To those voices, I say, "It is worth it. Because if it stays in my head, I'll just lose it. And vision not quite realized is still better than vision lost, vision wasted." No more wasted vision. I'm letting myself experiment. I'm shaking off the boxes. And it feels like fresh air in my lungs.

Here's another drawing I did a few weeks later while Jason was watching Lord of the Rings or something. Rather than requesting that we put something else on and ending up watching something that neither of us really want to watch, I grabbed a sketch book and my box of crayons and I set out to draw a Tiger that we saw in Disney World. Well, the tiger ended up looking more like a wolf, so I figured I might as well throw Little Red Riding Hood into the mix (because she's so trendy on etsy right now). Here's what I came up with:
I'm a little happier with how this one turned out. It took on a life of its own and told me what it wanted to be. It was a fun little exercise in losing myself to the creative process, free from all of the existential ponderings of what this says about my creative abilities or lack thereof.

So how about you? What is holding you back from silly little sketches? or picking up a paint brush or some knitting needles? Give yourself permission to try something new this week. Give yourself permission to make something silly. And have a little fun!


  1. What's holding me back is that I really have no idea where to start. I have been letting my decorating side come out a little more, but so many things, if it's not more wood and nails types of things, I just have no idea where to begin. (Meaning all the crafty stuff.) I would love to knit a scarf sometime (though preferably next fall/winter - right now I just want spring), but I've never knit anything before. I have no idea how. I also like to have a “product” - something that will serve a purpose somewhere, whether it’s a scarf to wear, or a photo I can frame, or a clock I can put up. I want it to somehow be displayed, which probably hurts the “just do it” idea. So, those are some of my limitations... some of which I know could be overcome by "just asking" someone for help, but I need the motivation to get to a craft store and do that… or the time to come up to Boston for a weekend. =) I really am determined to make that clock, though; it’s the next part of my “bedroom project”. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. Definitely do let me know how the clock comes out. I'm sure you'll post pictures on your blog, and I'll link to that when you have it up. I really want this blog to inspire creative community, so I'm all about posting other people's projects, too.

    If all that's stopping you is a little know-how, then we definitely need to get you up to Boston. I'm not an excellent knitter, but I can make a scarf. It's pretty easy and goes pretty fast...especially if you use big needles and chunky yarn.

    But until we get you here, craft stores (Joann's, Michael's, local shops) are a great place to start because lots of times they offer classes that provide sewing machines and expertise. But you also may want to ask around the people you know if they know of anyone that could help you out. Little creative geniuses are all around us. Sometimes they just need a little push, but generally those sorts are up for sharing they're secrets.

  3. It makes me so sad to think that because I'm so amazing it art ;o) , it over-shadows your creativity. However, I lack one thing you don't: ambition. I have never had the erge to create like you do, unless that is, if I have a commission or audience. (That is part of me that is too much like dad that I hate!) But I've come up with a list of things all people need to be successful with being creative. Please feel free to disagree or add anything:

    1. ambition- the desire to be creavite
    2. supplies- at your fingertips...there's nothing worse than starting a project then having to stop because you don't have something. One thing Rhett taught me was that every painter should put out ALL of his paints on his pallette. I thought this was a waste and quite silly, until I realize I tend to use more colors when I don't have to stop what I'm doing to open and squeze tubes of paint. Therefore: get out more supplies than you think you need- you never know what will all of a sudden inspire you.
    3. A place you don't have to clean up if you have to stop and aren't finished yet.
    4. Someone to admire your work. For all those extrinisically motivated people like myself, I tended to work harder, longer, and more diligently if I knew someone would appreciate it- even if it was just mom who was going to put my drawing on the refigerator.
    5. Time- SET ASIDE. If you wait until the end of the day to squeeze it in, chances are you won't.
    6. A deadline. Which is why your blog is so brilliant. Terriffic idea to give yourself a week and no longer to finish.

    Thoughts? Did I leave anthing out?
    Anything else?

  4. Nice list, Megan! Would you mind if I put that up as a post?

  5. can you tell i don't have a job yet? thank goodness for blog archives otherwise what would I do with myself? but here's to no more wasted vision! Maybe I'll actually put the rest of the boxes away and attempt to decorate my new home in someway. Robin who knew you were this inspirational??

  6. I think I've always had it in me, but I was too busy sitting in boxes to fully express my inspirational genius. :o) Hooray for no more wasted vision! Go, Melissa, go!! :o)