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Creative abyss

Hi Helen,

One more voice in the chorus of “Yup, been there”. Take comfort in
the fact that you’re not alone.

For me, I was sooooo fried after grad-school that it was several
years before I started making serious pieces again.

There’s been some very good advice offered already: take a break,
and don’t stress it. The harder you push, the less progress you’re
going to make.

I’ve always thought of it sort of like Maslow’s pyramid of needs.
You need to secure food and shelter before your brain has enough
energy to spare to worry about less pressing things like friends &
family. And you need to get those sorted before you can spare a
thought for higher esoterica like art. Creativity is just about at
the absolute tip of that pyramid. You need to have pretty much
everything else in your life sorted before you have enough energy for
creativity. Either that, or you need to find a way to put it all out
of your mind, to the point where you can operate as though everything
else were sorted. (Easier said than done.)

If your life is in an uproar, and you’re ill, are you surprised your
brain has things it considers more important to worry about? Relax,
it’ll come back.

Meanwhile, for me, I’ve often found just getting up and doing
helps. Take a first step, in some direction. Once you’re
moving, it’s easier to keep moving. Make inertia work for you for
a change! :slight_smile:


It's partly due to the fact that I've not been well, so haven't
had the mental energy to make anything 

helen the real thing here is that you say you are in ill health,
if you are depressed and ill how can there be fun in jewelry
making?, i want to pitch my view on life and health, it is best to
get out of breath from some form of exercise for at least an hour a
day, out of breath is the key, it is also much healthier to be a
vegetarian and to eat organic foods strictly, otherwise you are
killing yourself from pesticides, chemical fertilizer and gmo foods,
non-compassionate farming methods, be it animal or vegetable,
hormones in dairy and meat that react with your body and kill it. A
minimum of 50% of your diet should be green, leafy, yellow, red
veggies, roots,nuts, herbs, 25% should be fruit. All meat optimally
should be raised organic and humanely. Also i consider a stretch of
no creativity, an asset in making stuff, because, when you do go try
again, you don’t have to bother thinking about what to do, you just
do nothing special if you like, very simple and without thought
about the final outcome of the piece, no pressure on yourself to
come with something creative, and in fact, let it go boring and
uninteresting, don’t worry, it will soon liven up and turn out to be
your best and memorable, because creativity comes largely from
experience anyway, so you don’t have to try anymore really, it just
comes out of you, your body can’t help but do it at this point,
it is also a time that you can tune into microcosms of your work,
like filing different, or hammering different, using different
processes than usual or letting your hands do anything that they do
with the tool you are holding, no rules except safety. Cherish the
time, and use it. One of my favorite asides from making jewelry
though, is painting pictures and whittling, museums, nature, civil
rights, dave

Hello Helen,

Although I’m relatively new to the world of jewelry design (1 1/2
yrs.), I can tell you that based on my own personal life experiences
that you will get through this lull and you will return to making
your jewelry…when you are ready, and less overwhelmed with the
other things going on in your world right now. In other words, you
get out of the abyss by giving yourself permission to take the time
that you need in order to recover from whatever has you down.

I’ve seen your posts on Orchid and your blogs, and I know that you
are passionate about your craft. Stuff happens, and when it does,
allow yourself the time and energy to work through it. If you put
pressure on yourself to get back to the bench and produce, you just
might cast yourself further into a downward spiral.

When I want inspiration, I think of people like Ronda Coryell. Ronda
is making a recovery and it hasn’t been her first. We all eventually
recover and have the full potential to come back even better, again
and again and…again.

Vicki Stone

i agree with Teddy! scrap usually works for me too…or i just start
with an old design that is yet to be manufactured…for me the idea
is to just get started. and i keep this little story on my
inspiration board to get me going:

Arnold Toynbee(British historian) woke up at 6.45am every morning,
prepared breakfast for himself and his wife, and began working at
9am. ‘the important thinng’ he said, ‘is to just start working. if u
wait until you feel like working, you’ll never accomplish anything.’

tho’ there’s no way i’m waking up at that unearthly hour…i’ve worked
out my own schedule and it works for me!. ) hope it helps. gd lk!

Hi Helen,

I’m sure you’ve heard this one about the hunter who is lost in the
woods in Scotland. After several days of searching he encounters a
wise man sitting on a rock. The hunter asks the wise man, “am I found
yet?”. Wise man answers, “no laddie, you’re just as lost as I am!”

I’m in a perpetual creative abyss, because of the lifelong struggles
I have with depression. I’m not certain I am capable of doing any
original art to save my life. So what I do to cope with my unique
problem is to become a student of the utterly derivative. So that’s
my position sitting in the rock in the middle of the woods.

What this means for you, I am not quite certain. But here’s my
suggestion: perhaps the rut you are in indicates that you need to
expand your range of your technique, either through practice, study,
or experiment.

If you mainly hammer or cast silver, then you should consider
studying lapidary or gem faceting. If you have tons of money, you can
buy a CNC milling machine and learn to be a CAD jockey on silver. Or
if you’d rather do something truly intricate, try engraving.

The possibilities are truly endless. And as you expand your
technique, your mind might generate new ideas for you.

Luck to you,
Andrew Jonathan Fine

Hi Helen,

In a nutshell, “The Artists’ Way” by Julia Cameron.

You will not even need to purchase the book today as there are
multiple references and a website. That being said, however,
personally, I am forever grateful for the serendipitous finding of
this book and to this day, the ongoing reference to this process.
Julia Cameron has spent some 30 years helping not only creative
types, but, it is her philosophy that anyone can be creative.

References via Ganoksin archives, Google extensive references and
even a Wikipedia definition.

In my own case, the process was life changing when I first went
through the steps. Mind you, I consider myself creative by genome but
there was a time when I was “blocked”. I was not prepared for the
results of this process. Then, that is another story.

Now, I have the tools to deal with the blocks, the ledges and the
walls, or, if you will the ‘abyss’.

Most, by the way, are self imposed. Not something that was easy for
me to accept.

Anyway, Been there, no longer stay there. this is what helps me.

K Whitney

Helen- Get in your best dress and hottest shoes. Then go to where
there is music. Then start dancing as hard as you can.

Stay up all night.

Watching the sun rising your clothes from the night before is good
for the soul.

Responsible alcohol use is encouraged.

Mild hallucinogens can also been known to help. The next morning when
you wake up in your own bed, you’ll be so happy to not be in jail
that you’ll feel inspired. Works for me.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

PS: The dancing part is really important.
So are the shoes and dress.

Hi Helen,

being a fellow sufferer of depression, I empathise with your
situation. Try not to be hard on yourself, this will be your biggest
gift to yourself and probably help you heal quicker. Try not to think
of it as depression, think of it as a bruise or cut, but just inside
not outside your skin. if you like, close your eyes, imagine
applying some cream or some antiseptic. See the colour around it
change, like betadine, see the gauze and the little bandage being
applied, then the clip holding all together.

Each day take a few minutes to examine the wound and see how it’s
healing, closing over and shrinking each day. Soon only the bruise
is left, a little tender but whole. One day even that will be gone.
See the bandage in the bin.

Now look at your face in the mirror, see the sparkle back in your
eyes? See the smile on your lips, and the little laugh lines around
your mouth and eyes? You’re all you, all good again and any help you
received from loved ones, strangers,yourself, send a little mental
cheers to them, because they’re just like any healer we go to see
when something is visible to the naked eye.

No one feels guilty, anxious or upset when they have a physical
injury, so try to let the idea that this is precisely the same stay
foremost in your mind and the whole process is much less

Helen, get lots of sleep, write in a notebook all the crappy
thoughts swirling around and eat well. When you feel yourself
returned, get the notebook and burn it, throw it away or have a good
laugh at it. Like a computer, every now and then we need to delete
some useless files. That’s all those thoughts are, useless and
unhelpful. They don’t harm us because we are in control of them, not
the other way round. My thoughts are with you, and any time you need
some one to be a listener, I’m here. Take care of yourself, you are
precious and much loved in the world, so believe the good things
people around you are telling you through their words and actions.


Michael, well said, I couldn’t say it any better other then a long
walk in the fresh air is also a necessity in my book.

Helen, I get late summer blues, business is slow, it so hot here in
Tucson, napping is wonderful, ect. I have to respect all that and not
let it get me down. I take on jobs which are old home week, maybe
take time off from pushing myself. I get out of town for a day, get
away from my studio. It will come back. Look at jewelry books,
stones, techniques. Let my brain rest. I respect the obsession, when
it hits, to make a piece and I respect when I have nothing.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Yep, I had that happen yesterday. I just could not get up the energy
to go there even though there was plenty of stuff to do. So, I
forced myself to go to my bench and sit there. I start to look at all
my “parts.” I also turn on the music. Pretty soon I am fooling around
with ideas again. I like to design in the metal so sitting with it
and touching it gets me going. Sometimes I go for a walk and look at
things, but usually being at my bench does it. Worst case, you can
play with your scrap.

Everyone has this issue sometimes, no matter what the subject is. Of
course there are some days when I drop everything I touch, and all
my gemstones jump into another dimension!

Mary Barker

take a long walk WITHOUT those darn earplugs of music to keep your
mind free to think. look at nature in everything that you pass along
your walks. I did this, this afternoon for 2 hours. turn off your
cell phone, let your mind wander free. who needs medications to dull
your mind? King Solomon once said, “… and this too shall pass!”

Gerry Lewy

Hi Helen,

We’ve been down this road before. Remember back a year or two when
you were having trouble doing things that only a week before were
easy? It was because you were hitting a learning plateau, and were
overloaded by other tasks that you didn’t recognize as "learning"
tasks, like ordering parts, streamlining your shop, etc. The cause,
effect and solution are exactly the same.

All you can do is wait it out.

If you have the luxury of taking time off to regroup, do it. If you
don’t (which is far more likely), you can only keep on going.

Michael David Sturlin has it exactly right, discipline is the key. I
was faced with this once early on and an old-timer told me, “The
definition of character is continuing on when the desire to continue
has left you.” Never have more true words been spoken.

When I am faced with this now, I don’t take a week off to do
something else, or go for a long weekend looking at nature for
inspiration, it’s far more deep than that, and I can’t afford to
anyway. I pick up the next job in my box and do it. Then I pick up
the next job and do it. Then I pick up the next job and do it. Sooner
or later, it starts to get fun again. Might be hours, might be days,
might be months.

When you do this for a living, or even for money at all, you can’t
tell a customer to come back next month when you feel like doing it
or when you’re feeling a little more creative. If you let your mood
determine the quality and creativity of your work, you are still a
hobbyist. When you get to the point when your mood or frame of mind
is indistinguishable in the creativity and quality of your work, you
have become a professional.

Jo’s suggestion of partying like a teenager and thanking your lucky
stars you’re not in jail in the morning has serious potential though.
I might have to give that a try (again).

Dave Phelps

Well It has been interesting to read so many different takes on what
is a common experience to so many of us. Some fight the problem
daily, some once in a long while. However it happens to each of us is
our own private recipe. My solution is probably something that only
works for me and which is definitely not a career builder - but then
I don’t do “career.” When I’m not producing or “creating” well, I
just go and do something else instead. I have a big menu to choose
from. I’m gonna die with an unfinished to-do list. So?

When I did have a career going a long time ago i had a particular
design problem to solve, complete with deadline. ( A pair of doors
for a public building’s main entrance) Three solid days at the
drawing board, piles of crumpled paper on the floor and absolutely
nothing, zip, zero, not even close! i was so mad at the end of day
three that I barked at the drawing board. Like a dog! I barked and
barked! Arf Arf Arf etc. (can’t translate) The upshot was that I
immediately got the image and had it sketched out in under ten
minutes - and damn! it was good !

I can’t recommend this as everyone’s solution - and it only happened
to me once, but DAMN! It was GOOD! And I Iike remembering that day.


Its like that old song…“when you’re hot you’re hot, when you’re
not you’re not”

When I am not I am most definitely NOT. I go find something else to
do. Roll with it.

When in the Creative Abyss, get away from the studio and the bench…
Take the dog for a walk in the woods… look for something
inspiring in nature, watch the creatures play, let the mind relax.

Many of us are so production and result oriented, the completion of
a finished piece takes on precedence over enjoying metal-play which
is what drew us to creating jewelry in the first place. A good
friend, who is a jewelry artist and a retired psychotherapist,
recommended to me several years ago to devote 4 hours a week to allow
our inner child to play in the studio (with adult supervision when
using the torch or a potentially hazardous tool), and just mess with
a new technique, and observe the creativity and new skills or ideas
that many come from the play.

It has worked for me, and allowed me to grow my art…and expand new
designs and idea, and have fun doing so.

Hi Helen

I’ve not been in your situation for the length of time you have
but… maybe a few days of not getting near the bench despite all
good intentions because of some sort of block/lethargy/rut… whatever
you want to call it. That doesn’t happen now since I have my little
shop. If I have no orders (or none that I can face on a particular
day) I sit and look at what’s been sitting around unfinished and
force myself to finish something. That’s enough to get me started.
Sometimes I don’t finish that, if I’m in a contrary mood, but end up
making up a simple idea that’s been floating around in my head

The main point of all this is that you should maybe just try and sit
down at your workbench and pick something up to fiddle with. Give
yourself half an hour for starters… who knows what will follow.

Good luck… Renate

A correction to yesterday’s post, if I may.

I wrote -

The definition of character is continuing on when the desire to
continue has left you. 

I misquoted my old friend, I should have written “The definition of
discipline is…”

Jo’s advice for rekindling the old fire in the belly may work
wonders at the bench, but it doesn’t do squat for writing skills.

Dave Phelps

Just in time, there’s a blog carnival on the subject at Art Bead
Scene blog:


Hi Helen

I’m hoping that by now you’re back in the world. I’ve been there,
and must relate that those who have suggested exercising and
eliminating sugars and starches are spot on for me. One hot fudge
sundae and I end up in a deep hole that takes a long time to climb
out of. Of course when depression hits, the first place I want to go
is the refrigerator, so getting out of the house helps a lot. Hitting
the treadmill or the pavement is very helpful.

Now that said, when I just get stuck, I go through my file of old
sketches. I always amaze myself when I look at them. When an idea for
a design hits, I do a quick sketch before the inspiration is gone. I
end up with a file of crude drawings on scraps of paper or napkins,
the backs of envelopes - then when I come across these later I am
amazed to see some very good ideas that I had completely forgotten
about. I take one and start working on it.

When “stuff” hits you, and it’s usually family “stuff”, it just
takes time to recover, but time does heal. We’ve all been there.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, and do let us know how you’re doing.

About Jo’s suggestion - it’s the best. You’ve got to laugh and have
fun. It’s probably the most important thing of all.

My very best,