You can only create when you can create. It sounds obvious doesn’t it? Whilst there are ways to inspire yourself into finding new ideas, the sheer desire to create has to be organic – most of the time. If you are churning out ideas like a Primark store, in my eyes that’s not creativity. That’s just conveyor belt production. And looking around at the high street you can see little thought goes into what currently appears in the shops. Churning out generic designs with a slightly different palette isn’t creative.
I think I was probably at my most creative in my late teens and 20s, at least from an enthusiasm point of view. I was obsessed with making. I missed harnessing that into a business model according to science but apparently I am the norm. Now I’m looking forward to the second wave, but I feel like it’s almost here and it’s certainly true that from a writing point of view I peaked older when my book was published last year.
I have often worried about my productivity. I worried about it a lot last year and the year before when I was forced into a commuter style day of getting to a studio where if I wasn’t there by 9am I couldn’t park my car. And then feeling obliged to stay until it felt reasonable to leave despite me doing almost nothing whilst I was there. I always seemed to be treading water for time’s sake. I had a studio with no view, it faced against the sun. It was cold and costing me a lot in electricity to heat. I couldn’t grow any plants there. It felt barren, too clinical for a creative space. And yet it was space I had never had before. It came at a cost. Not just money. But my creativity.
Since I left the studio last September and went back to working from home in an environment which allows me to have a knee jerk reaction to my creative desires, I’ve completed a lot more work. I have turned my online store around, made dozens of new pieces and I’ve listed old stock I’d had for years and just hadn’t found the enthusiasm to sort through.
Thanks to Jocelyn K Glei’s podcast and entries like this one, I have learned to come to terms with my sporadic creativity. I can go for weeks not wanting to produce anything, wading through admin, selling, marketing but having no impoteus to make. This to me always feels like I am just ‘filling time’ although I know it is essential to my business to keep up with this side of it. Then suddenly I might create four or five garments in a few days.
Instead of berating myself, I go with it now. To me it’s a part of the creative process that you sometimes have to wait for the ideas. The response is also seasonal, which is more frustrating. It is painfully obvious that my creativity is affected by the weather. By how cold it is. By how sunny it is. I did nothing over the winter. I literally hibernated. I felt like I was just surviving. Once Spring arrived, I saw the difference in an instant. Environment is important. And you need it to be one where you feel cosy enough to allow that creativity to flow. This is the first time since moving to Manchester more than four years ago, that I have felt like I am in a truly creative environment. And yes I am working from home.
I have talked in the past about the perils of working from and living under the same roof, and having a very clear work life separation. I have fallen foul of it before. But perhaps having had a taste of the separation, and perhaps because I am older and my priorities have changed, I now feel that working from home does work best for me. But it depends a lot on the home environment. I changed that last year too. I don’t have the distractions and the negative influences around me that used to come with the package.
Creativity has become too automated and we forget how creation really happens and what it means at its heart. You are not a production line unless that’s all you want from it. You don’t have to be an Instagram sensation and you don’t need to have X number of shops in your first year. Maybe you don’t want any of that, and the money you do make is simply a nice response to the work you do. If all you care about in your creativity is the price tag at the end of the project, then you are doing it wrong. You are not creative, you are just producing for money.
There is a difference.