If you’re like me, you have bits and pieces of things that inspire you—clippings, notes, photographs, cards, quotes—all over the place.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to find them?
I’ve tried before, putting stuff in a drawer, tacking things to my bulletin board, or filing them somewhere, but nothing worked for me. Until I saw other people’s “inspiration books.”
Inspiration books are like loose collages or scrapbooks that focus on a person’s passions : the ideal home, places traveled, street art, gardens, fashion, lettering, etc.
Making a book like this is easy, even if you’re crazy busy and sure that “you don’t have a creative bone in your body.” All you need is a little time here and there, a glue stick, scissors, and a blank book.
I know, because of course I had to make my own. This book is just for me, so I’m not getting all uptight about it. I just paste things in, leave space for more stuff, and trust the process to lead somewhere.
Two questions hold our creativity hostage, according to Lynda Barry. One: Is it good? Two: Does it suck?
It’s hard to believe that an accomplished artist like Barry understands the forces that hold us back, but she nails it in What It Is.
The book outlines her journey from creative joy to creative dread and back again, and suggests ways to get past the monsters inside. The first step is asking a different question:
IS IT ALIVE?
Aliveness is the hard part, Barry says. To get there, you have to “be able to stand not knowing long enough for something alive to take shape.” How?Here’s one exercise she uses in her class.
List the first 10 cars you remember. Pick the one that’s the most vidid and answer these questions. Where are you? What are you doing? Are you in the car or out? Who’s with you? What’s in front of you? Behind you? Why are you there? What time of day is it? What season?
Start with the words “I am…” and write what’s happening. Stay inside the image and keep your hand moving.
I am… in my mom’s white Oldsmobile convertible with bright red seats, riding in the back with my brother—in our pajamas!—to Don and Bob’s. We love D & B’s burgers, so big the patty hangs off the bun, and I’m crazy about their fries. I like to use the little wooden thingy to eat the inside first, then the shell. Just don’t let any ketchup get on them! I hate ketchup!
I bet you’ll see things you haven’t thought of in years, things that are alive for you. And that’s a good place to start.
Things I made and hated look a lot better months or years later.
Like, I knit these squares for an afghan a decade ago, but wasn’t happy with the way they came out. So I hid them in a stack in our linen closet and didn’t look at them till last week—and was shocked by how cool they are.
Or like the Victorian doll house book I made when I was recovering from hand surgery. I kept putting pages together and tearing them apart until I hated the whole thing.
But Margaret said it was “enchanting,” which gave me the energy to finish. That’s when I discovered that the book stands up by itself, making it a 3D dollhouse with room for paper dolls and more.
I would have loved that when I was a kid. And still do.
The creative adult is the child who survived. – Ursula K. LeGuin
I don’t know what I was thinking the last time we painted, when I covered the walls in shades of gray.
Maybe it’s like Dr. T. once told me: the state of our house reflects the state of my mind. Six years ago, times were tough. But we’ve done a lot of healing since then, and it’s beginning to show in the walls.
My color expert, Lynda Lankford, helped me choose the colors you can sort of see in the picture (they’re even more vibrant in real life) and the very white high gloss trim, which makes it all pop.
Then there’s just plain old serendipity. The paint crew painted the “wrong” wall in the living room—and we love it. Thank you so much Sue!
So color me happy and come on over: we can’t wait to share our joy with you.
I was so proud of finishing this blanket I made for Sam. Two previous attempts were disasters, and I was beginning to doubt that I’d ever make one. So, ta da!
At least that’s the way I felt for a few minutes. But sitting down to write about it showed me something I didn’t particularly want to see.
I’m just like Sam…Except when he starts things and doesn’t finish them, it drives me crazy.
What’s the difference? Scale. My projects are small, so no one has to see them. His, on the other hand, are so big they hit you in the face—at least my face. (Besides the fact that it’s easier to see his flaws than my own.)
What’s the same is the root cause: perfectionism. Whatever we’re making, the product is never as good as the image we have in our minds.
Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. It drains our energy and keeps us from trying, learning, growing, failing, changing—and finishing.
All that’s to say, I am proud of this blanket. It’s not perfect, but it’s warm, cozy, beautiful—and DONE.
It started with these birds yelling at me for putting them on an ordinary page with simple doodles. In defending their dignity, they came up with some impressive insults: troglodyte*, ignoramus, cretin, idiot.
Then I opened my email and found the word for the day: ultracrepidarian, or “one who gives opinions beyond one’s area of expertise.”
I could use that one, way too often, as well as these.
Snollygoster, an opportunistic, power-hungry person
Blatherskite, one who talks foolishly at length
Cacafuego, one who brags too much
Mythomane: one having a tendency to exaggerate or lie
Coccydynia: literally, a pain in the butt
So next time someone offends you, try using an uncommon insult. That should really piss them off.
*Troglodyte: a cave dweller from prehistoric times, or a person who acts like one.
You know those old projects lying around your house? I have plenty: the needlepoint I abandoned…knit afghan squares in a pile…half-full journals…
Well, last night I finished one of those.
I’ve had this vintage book cover forever, cut the pages at least a year ago, and then put it on a shelf and forgot about it. Or mostly forgot about it. The truth is, I realize now, I was scared. It was less painful to do nothing—and have nothing—than to risk screwing it up.
I don’t know what changed, but yesterday I pulled the pieces off the shelf and finally put them together. There wasn’t much to it: the whole project took just a couple of hours.
That’s all it took, unless you count the hours I spent taking bookmaking classes and collecting the necessary tools and supplies, which is a lot. Now I know why I struggled through them: just being familiar with the process made it possible to make this book.
I found a simple binding to sew, punched slightly larger holes, and was amazed by how much easier the whole process was when I didn’t follow someone else’s instructions. And Sam made it even easier by building a tool that helps align pages.
Hope I can remember this experience next time I’m avoiding finishing something…