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Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

We're in Week Two of NaNoWriMo, and I'm way behind. I'll probably catch up, but I might not. I might fail. And that's okay.

I'm seeing a lot of my fellow WriMos in the same boat and lamenting their possible fate and being really down on themselves, though, so I wanted to talk about failing. Don't get hung up on it. Failing is not the worst thing that can happen.

Sometimes failing can be a good thing. How?

  • Failing can show you things that don't work so you can start over and avoid them
  • Failing can show you things you never thought of so new ideas and new projects might spring up
  • Failing can show you that you are doing something, you are out there moving ahead, you are trying (and yes, there is such a thing as trying; Yoda was wrong, and you can see my thoughts on that here)
  • Failing can remind you that there are still things to learn and discover out there and rekindle your enthusiasm

Failing isn't usually fun (unless it's cake experiments--that can be a lot of fun). But it's not a terrible thing to avoid. If you never fail, you might be playing it safe, and that's probably going to keep you from getting where you want to go. So try things out, reach a little, let yourself fail, and remember it's all part of the process, not the end of things. Failing is just another step. You took that step, you fell down. Now, get up and try again.

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In my last post, I talked about how giving attention to our creative work and making time for art is really important right now.

It's also really hard right now. These are stressful, anxious times, and those feelings can make being creative feel really hard. And yet if we aren't getting to our creative work, that also makes us feel anxious, restless, not quite right. So what do you do when you want to do creative work but you can't seem to make it happen?

Find a way to just dip your toes into creativity. Find things that are easy, don't take too much time, are soothing if possible, fun if possible, engaging without needing laser focus. What you do isn't the important part; the important part is touching base with your creative life to keep connected.

My favorite thing to do when I want to do my art but can't settle into it is creative busy work. It's stuff that needs to get done for your creative work, but it doesn't usually require quite as much time, energy, or brain power. Things like organizing, prepping, tidying, planning, things that let you get your hands on your creative work but in a lighter and easier way than fully immersing yourself.

Some creative busy work projects:

  • Wind skeins of yarn into balls for your next knitting or crocheting project (or skeins of floss for embroidery)
  • Gather paints and sorting or organizing them for easier use on your next project
  • Clip words and pictures out of magazines for your next collage, junk journal, or art journal project
  • Put down layers of paint in your art journal for backgrounds
  • Pull gel prints for future use as backgrounds or in collages, etc.
  • Practice brush lettering or other hand lettering
  • Doodle
  • Make a color swatch (so many fun ideas for color swatches at Daisy Yellow--check out the link!) with your favorite markers, paints, colored pencils, etc.
  • Add to or organize inspirational Pinterest boards
  • Page through magazines about your art or ones that inspire you in some way

One last suggestion--keep a list of creative busy work. Put it in the front of your journal or planner or somewhere you can look at it easily. Sometimes when you're restless and want to do something, trying to remember the ideas you had about what to do gets hard. Make it easier for yourself! Easy is good.

I hope this has helped a little if you've been feeling stuck or unfocused lately. And if you have other things you like to do to help ease yourself out of a creative slump, I'd love to hear about them! Drop a note in the comments, or find me on social media.

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2

My mini book from Seth Apter's class

I was just getting back to blogging in the spring. And then on top of the pandemic, George Floyd was murdered right in public by a police officer, and the crumbling world caved in. I couldn’t bring myself to write about anything that wasn’t Black Lives Matter or mask wearing. Nothing else seemed important. I spent a lot of time (still do, just not exclusively) on social media sharing things to try to help, to try to spread the word about what was happening and maybe ways to make changes.

Talking, sharing, protesting, writing letters--it's important work we have to keep doing. But I was sinking in on myself more and more every day, and I didn't know what to do. And then a class popped up-- Seth Apter’s Mini Book Madness. It was so inexpensive, and the books were delightful, and it was easily accessible. I signed up. I started my book in class and spent days finishing it. I was so in love I bought supplies to make more books (which hasn’t happened yet, but I have my stuff, and it will). I felt a little more like me. I felt a little calmer, a little more focused, a little less constantly enraged.

Right now doing our art, making things, creating may seem pointless. Worse, it may feel selfish.

Right now, our art is necessary.

Stopping and later recovering from this pandemic is a long-haul thing. Continuing the fight against police violence and racial injustice and inequity is a long-haul thing. That means that we have to figure out how to do all the work on these things at the same time as we are having lives. And that means taking care of ourselves and doing the things that buoy us up and help us keep going, that help us keep hope and help us bring light to ourselves and others.

There have been articles and posts about this already. I’m not saying anything new. But I feel like my blog is something that people read in quieter times, so maybe the words will sink in a little easier. Or the ideas might sink in from repetition. In any case, I just wanted to say it out loud.

Living our lives, making our art, doing our creative work--it’s important. We have to have a full and thriving world to move back into once we fix these crises. We can’t build that world or keep it going if we burn ourselves out. 

Next time I’ll talk about some small ways to get back to your art if it’s a struggle. For now, just remember that you can do it for just 5 minutes, you can do it badly, you can just spend time sorting supplies. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Now, go make something!

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