Author: Nanette Zeller

What shall I call it?

Lately, my heart has been feeling heavy. There’s too much uncertainty and chaos in the world. Most of the worries are out of my control. I know I just have to be patient and watch it all play out.

So I step away from the news to find some peace. That’s what I’m trying to do anyway. My ever present comfort is the bird feeder in my backyard. I can see if from every window on the backside of my house.

I’ve been observing the summer birds arriving and hanging out again. They’ve been away for awhile. The red-headed woodpecker is back. And this morning, I saw a male and female pair of summer tanagers. The indigo bunting was here this week too. And, oh yes, the sweetness…this season’s first bluebird nestlings are almost fledged (ready to fly).

This is where to focus when you’re heart gets heavy. Stop, listen, and watch  the birds. Maybe even be inspired to make a new quilt. What shall I call it?

Fulfilling rewards

This morning I was listening to Macy Gray on a podcast. She said she caught her ideas for her songs when God and angels threw them at her. This isn’t as novel or “out there” as it may seem.  In “Big Magic,” Elizabeth Gilbert says basically the same thing, as does Phil Cousineau in his book “Stoking the Creative Fires.” (note: both books are good reads)

I find the concept fascinating. They’re all basically saying that there are moments when a creative idea comes to you. You can grab it and run with it…or let it pass. Gilbert goes as far to say if you let it pass, the idea might get tossed to someone else. I’ve had moments of “Oh wow! What if I do this?” I find it fascinating.

Creativity isn’t just about making a work of art. Creative expression could be starting a new business or non-profit, deciding to take a trip, inviting friends to start a support group or book club, coming up with an idea to teach a class, or… well you get the idea. The challenge is acting on the inspiration.

I come up with a lot of ideas, but grabbing them and acting on them is a different story. Reading these 2 books and, today, listening to Ms. Gray, I realized you can’t act on everything. You can easily forget an idea if you’re busy with something else or don’t write it down. Maybe you need time to percolate the reality of this creative spark. Maybe it was just an idea that passed by you, but was meant for someone else. If the idea is meant for you, hopefully it will return when you’re ready and bless you with many fulfilling rewards.

 

Back at you

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “beach person,” but I do love the beach. I don’t like the beaches that are crowded with people. I like walking the beach early in the morning or in cold months when no one else wants to be there. I had some time this past week to stroll barefoot in the sand and I kept running into great blue herons. This one stood still along the coast and pretended not to notice me. I was acting like a Frozen Charlotte and I knew he was watching me. Whenever I made the slightest move, his gaze would change or his body would move to reposition. It was a stand-off of mutual respect.

Had I been with other people, I know this encounter wouldn’t have happened. They likely wouldn’t have been so patient or quiet in waiting. Watching. It was magic. I watched how they interacted with people and tried to survive with the 2-legged trespassers. I watched how they adapted their feeding, as they attempted to steal the fish reeled in by the people fishing the surf. No longer the independent hunter, just a well-adapted opportunistic thief. I walked away emotionally changed.

I knew in just a few hours of my walk, things would be different for them. Instead of an occasional morning walker, they would deal with a steady stream of people passing up and down the coastal sand. They did what they could to survive. One stolen fish at a time.

This is were creative inspiration comes from; Stopping. Observing. Witnessing life around you. Take the time to slow down. The inspiration will probably be there looking right back at you.

 

 

Slow time

I’m feeling a whole lot of emotions right now. Yesterday felt like a trying day and there’s a lot going on today too. Some things are in my control, but there’s a whole lot that’s not. On days like this I feel like I’m falling behind. But, I know I’ll get done what I needs to get done. Some days it looks like the list will be cleared and I’ll get some time off. And then out of nowhere there’s another thing added to the list.

The list will always be there. It never ends (well, at least not until we end anyway). There’s always something that needs attention. Its just a matter of prioritizing and being patient with yourself. Time seems fleeting and we keep grasping. If we stop in the moment, it makes a difference. So…

  • Stop.
  • Take notice.
  • Listen.
  • Focus on what you see.
  • Can you feel yourself breathe?

And,… that’s how you slow time.

Allow space for things to happen

The past few months, I’ve been working in front of my computer. At times, it felt like slow movements; a nagging … “get it done, get it done.” At the same time, I was reading books and paying attention to how I felt. My feelings were: why the hurry? Give it time. Don’t rush it.

“Don’t rush anything. When the time is right, it’ll happen.” – Anonymous

I’ve been trying to give myself space. I didn’t make my mental deadlines public, because I wanted to work in a comfortable way (yes, those deadlines kept changing). I didn’t want the added burden of external expectations. I’ve done that before and failed. Creativity isn’t a place to rush. However, it is a place to attend to.

I could have literally spent 8-10 hours a day working on producing my next online class. Instead I gave it time to process. Since the time I started working on this (yes, its been awhile), I’ve run into technical and software issues. And, the online hosting platform I was using announced they were shutting down. (Stop. Re-group. Time to go down a rabbit hole of research.) Disappointment and hurdles can slow you down.

I didn’t give up though. I just gave myself patience and space. If it is meant to be, it will be. Breathe.

There have been times that I pushed myself to perform and found my health was affected by it. I’m older and don’t want to live like that. I think many people are feeling this way. Covid gave us all a time to really slow down. Now as things are returning to normal, many of us don’t want to go back to our old ways. It’s Ok. Its actually healthy to step off the treadmill and meditate.

Above all, it is important to be aware of how you feel toward what you are doing. Step back, check in, and reflect. Is it important to you? If yes, take time for it. If no, then let it go. Along the way, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s ok to allow space for things to happen.

Try and succeed

I’ve been reading “The Storyteller” by David Grohl (lead vocalist for Foo Fighters). If you followed the “grunge” scene of music, you might appreciate his story. Even if you don’t know about much about grunge, its a good read because it’s a story about David’s creative journey. If you’re reading this you are probably on your own creative journey.

As I’m working through the last few chapters, he’s spending a lot of time reflecting on the people he met along the way. He looks back in amazement that a young kid raised in Springfield, Virginia could be living the life he currently has. Many of his idols and inspiration growing up are now counted as friends. He’s humble about his journey and finds it difficult to believe that he stumbled his way to this success. He wasn’t discouraged because there was a challenge ahead. He frequently refers to his journey as “fake it until you make it.”


I know this sounds like a book review; not, something I usually do. But, I’m telling you this because I see something else in the chapters of his story. I see that he showed up!! He had self-doubt and lack of experience, but he looked at opportunities with courage and tried. That to me is the lesson.

How many times have you felt discouraged and gave up, maybe even before trying? Have you ever said, “I’m not good enough, so why bother?” I can remember a few times I did. I also remember a few times I thought it, then convinced myself to generate the courage and try anyway. It is easy to look back in hindsight at the opportunities where we said “yes.” I see that each one of my “say yes” moments placed me farther down the road. That’s especially true when the opportunity turned into a complete failure!! They taught me what worked and didn’t work, making it easier to move forward to the next challenge.

If we give up, we’ll never completely know what we missed. However, I’m confident that when we say “yes,” we will grow. Its scary to take chances, but if you really want something you should try. This is important step to making art. To learn, we must try and fail. If we accept that, then we’ll only be able to try and succeed.

Take me back home

There are those of us whose passion for creativity is deep. I, for one, cannot remember a time in my life when I was not creating “something.” Over the years, my path has changed course many times. But, there was always some creative passion following with me on the journey.

I frequently get pulled toward new adventures. Yet, sometimes the path doesn’t feel right. I can feel out of balance. Other times, I can’t even pin point what it is. What I know is, I’m off course. I’ve taken a wrong turn.

I’m realizing this is normal. We all have winding paths. Yet, maybe the path isn’t winding enough, so we feel stagnant. To me, the uneasiness means I’ve lost my way. When this happens, its important to reflect on what brings me joy. I ask, what is missing in my life? I usually find that my creative spirit is being ignored. Then, I must look to the light to take me back home.

Find our way

So tell me, what’s with that project in your closet? You know, the one that you started ages ago? The one that you want to finish but lost your mojo? Or is it the one that you forgot about and later discovered while you were looking for something else? You know the one I mean…YES! That one! Can you tell me why you haven’t finished it?

I think all creatives have them. And, I must confess, I have my own “healthy” stash of UFOs (UnFinished Objects). Knitting projects, pieced quilts, art quilts and countless fabric tidbits that were suppose to become something.

When I “find” mine in the closet, I think to myself, “I should really finish that.” Then, I proceed to move on to whatever I was initially doing. I occasionally grab them and say…”Now its your turn!” and happily get them completed.

I sometimes envy those that don’t have abandonment issues with their art. However, not so much lately, because I’ve discovered a different attitude to take … it isn’t time. I compare it to making bread, the idea or creative energy needs to rest before it can rise.

Our society is so full of productive hurry. Do more, be more, create more … Don’t stop, because you will fall behind!

Maybe art isn’t meant to be created like that. Sure, there are those who crank out new work like they have little mice helping them at night [e.g., Cinderella]. But, it’s tiring to keep up. What if the work needs rest too? If we’re stuck, the pause can bring new insight and inspiration. Giving the work a timeout might be all we need to get the courage and confidence to complete it. Or maybe, the intermission gives us time to learn new things and find our way.

Daily creativity

I feel like my head is deep in the sand. I’m working with focus to produce new and updated online courses! Yay!! This feels intense, my body aches in different, but familiar ways. I’m being productive.

I’ve been feeling resistant about this process. I’ve thought “I’m giving up on my art!” But, I sincerely want to share my knowledge. So this is important to me too. Why have the skills and not share them with others who are interested in learning? I’ve realized that editing is not just some techie, analytical stuff … its also very creative. I’m splicing and dicing my video and audio to tell a story in a creative way. Its like writing a book with video. I’m realizing its kind of fun watching my progress.

Robert E. Franken defined creativity as: the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.

I’m learning that creativity is not only about entertaining ourselves. Indulging in creative activities could resemble solving word puzzles, finding new ways to cook a meal, sharing a story with a friend, or discovering a new road to your destination. Think of the potential. I’m learning to reevaluate the “chores” in life and trying to see their beauty in my daily creativity.

Feeding the soul and growing inspiration

I’ve been video editing a new online course I’m creating. The progress is slow, because there’s only so much intense computer time that I can handle in one day. The creative time for my art is limited and I must admit, I’m stuck.

It would be nice to have a new textile piece in progress on my work table, but I don’t know what I want to do next. My brain wanders between ideas, but nothing is sticking around to say “Start THIS one!” I wonder if you’ve felt stuck, like this. I try not to be too hard on myself. You can’t force art, but you can feed the creative sprite.

Here are some things that I’m doing to encourage a new project idea:

  • Journaling and meditation:  This is a great way to clear the clutter and negativity from your brain.
  • Sketching: – Sometimes an idea arrives, but its not fully developed. Sketch it out anyway. Just a simple drawing is all you need to remember it later. I know, if I don’t sketch it, I will forget it.
  • View artwork: Visit art galleries to see other artist’s work. They might use a theme or technique that inspires a new design idea.
  • Read: Go to the book store or library and look through art books and magazines. Much like viewing art in a gallery, flipping through pages is eye candy. If you buy the books or magazines, you can even rip out, or flag, pages for future reference.
  • Observe nature and take pictures: Even if you don’t create nature-inspired art, the colors or patterns in nature can spark design potential.
  • Experiment: Take classes or just play with some techniques or tools.

I’ve been doing all these things the past 2 weeks. Spring is definitely a time to be outside and exploring. It is also a great time to renew and grow. While encouraging my own growth, I’ve decided I want to jazz up my backgrounds on my art quilts. I’m learning how to use gouache paints to see if there’s a new way I can paint my fabrics. I also plan to experiment with several different fabric collage ideas, one from an idea I saw in a magazine and another a friend showed me. Maybe the two idea will morph into something totally different.

So, right now I’m OK not producing…instead, I’m feeding the soul and growing inspiration.