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Creativity & stumbling blocks


#1

Hi all; I recently made a typical “forthright” comment about the
problem of “perfectionism” from what I thought was a position of
confidence on the subject. Well, my ever present personal
ego-deflation agent wasted no time in getting to work. I was
reminded that just because that area isn’t troubling me lately that’s
no reason to be complacent. . .I can locate my own personal Achilles
heel. So, how do some of you approach the problem of . . .

Procrastination!

It seems I’ve always got one or two of those jobs lingering in the
back of my work box waiting. . .looming. . .and I want them to just
GO AWAY! These are usually difficult jobs, but not always. Sometimes
they just require me to do something I find tedious. But sometimes,
in the back of my mind, if I’m really honest, there’s a tiny little
voice that says . . .there is a good chance that this one is not
going to be good enough. Hmmm…sounds familiar. Could this, in
fact, be another form of . . . dare I say it. . .perfectionism? I
must admit it’s getting better, but as much as I’d like to believe
I’ve never had much of a problem with perfectionism I probably know
just as much as the next person how miserably stuck it can make you
feel at times.

David L. (always willing to fall on a sword in the name of Art)
Huffman


#2

David,

   Procrastination! 

Yes, sometimes it just seems impossible to get going on a project. I
don’t know if it’s perfectionism, though it’s possible that could be
part of it. Me, I’m just lazy. :wink:

Once I’ve begun work on something, I’m almost obsessed with it, and I
will often work through the night to complete a piece. Work that can’t
possibly be done in one day, (or night), are a bit daunting because I
know I’ll have to stop and start again, something I find hard to do,
especially if it’s very exacting and difficult. I made a chain that
took me months to complete, several hours a night to do a couple of
links, or, if I was lucky, four or five, and the ones that I spoiled
were nearly always the first ones of the day. (this might seem like
way too much effort for a chain – for the curious:
www.golden-knots.com/chain.html)

Projects that I do for myself, such as the chain, can take me weeks,
or even months, to begin work. I’ll plan out what will be done, and
think about how it will look, but to actually get going is very hard.
I’m very fortunate that when a real commission comes in, with money
involved, my laziness doesn’t stop me.

Loren


#3

Hi! Loren,

Sometimes music can be a source of stimulus for the soul or a

quotation

book I use one called “Each Day a New Beginning”. Loren, Life is too
short to waste it

away. Find things that will get you motivated. And make it happen
for yourself

=)

Sincerely!

Miss Nanci, The Golden Attitude Club


#4

Hi Loren; It seems whether it’s a private customer, and there’s
significant financial incentive, or it’s a customer for my day job
employer and there’s not as much pressure ( I do work on commission
with a base wage, so there could be incentive), there are some jobs
where getting started is like pulling teeth. The other day, it
occured to me why I believe procrastination and perfectionism are
related. I believe that in both cases, one has internalized an
anticipated external source of approval. Now in custom work, that’s
hard to avoid. Custom work is, by nature, playing to the audience.
But just as some men can sometimes hear their wife’s voice in their
head when they are about to leave the seat up, I have visions of the
scenario of that customer we sometimes refer to as. . . well,
psychologically oriented around a certain bodily orifice. As for
those, I’ve tried never showing weakness, but it’s no good, they’ll
just wear you down if they can’t get you to split hairs with them
from the begining. Still, I think the ideal situation is one in
which, at least periodically, we can act as the sole arbitor of
goodnes where our work is concerned. Like an actor, there are
thousands of bit parts in our lives, and occaissionally, that one
great role that makes one want carry on.

David L. Huffman


#5

To all: here’s an essay I wrote 2 years ago for the Seattle Metals
Guild and my students. It also appeared in SNAG News. Some may find
it of interest. Andy Cooperman

PROCRASTINATION

A metalsmith friend of mine once told me that jewelers and
metalsmiths (male jewelers and metalsmiths in particular) compulsively
acquire tools and equipment as a way to procrastinate: holding at bay
the uncertainties and discomfort of creating , substituting the highs
and deeper satisfactions of the making for the short thrill of
acquisition . Now, being a healthily compulsive male tool collecting
jeweler/ metalsmith myself, I at first bristled at her statement .
Upon deeper reflection, however, I saw the validity in what she had
said … w/ the exception, of course, of the word “male”.

To be sure, I’ve certainly sat in my studio staring at the bench
with my head pressed firmly against a brick wall: no where to turn but
dead ends, a tense nail of frustration grinding its way up my spine.
My thoughts rapidly descend into a deep well of negativity. "This
place is so cluttered; the bench is old and shabby; the studio’s a
disgusting mess; my career is a disgusting mess ; etc.; etc; etc."
And then I’ve felt my pulse quicken as an answer becomes clear in a
single word emerging as if from a fog: BENCH. Why… I’ll buy myself a
new bench! , No, better yet, I’ll make myself a new bench; of course
first I’ll need a new jig saw , a better belt sander and a more
accurate drill press. Now we’re getting somewhere! All of a sudden
a valve turns and a small door swings open through which can flow all
that energy that was building up behind the dam of my “metals block”.
Blessed Relief.

The trouble is that when the bench is built and the shiny new
tools–which I’ve hunted down at considerable bargains-- are put away,
more often than not the indecision, along with its attendant
frustration and lack of productivity, is still sitting there. The
block remains.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fear, procrastination and
missed opportunity. The increase in this volume of reflection is in
no doubt due to the recent passage of my fortieth birthday. (Yep, I’m
a walking clich�.) But I’ve been watching students, workshop attendees
and fellow metalsmiths lately and I’ve seen some procrastination
strategies that, while maybe not my preferred methods , are familiar.

With all due respect to the compulsive tool collectors and bench
builders, there are some subtler barriers that can be erected between
the maker and the making. Some people choose to attend workshop after
workshop, accumulating a varied array of , techniques and
procedures along with mountains of beautiful handouts. Their class
tackle boxes are full of beautifully executed samples; their
vocabularies of the various procedures of metalsmithing are
impressive, but for some reason they don’t string these words
together to make sentences. Don’t misunderstand me: most of them
could produce wonderful things. Their ideas, when they share them,
are challenging, their designs compelling. But something stands
between them and the work. Sometimes pieces never leave the safety of
their sketchbooks; other times their workboxes are filled w/ wonderful
objects frozen in various stages of development, from small packets
of components to nearly, but never fully, completed pieces.

I know other jewelers who set the studio itself between them and the
jewelry. One is building the perfect studio, another is perennially
trying to rent the ideal space. Something always seems to interfere
w/ the process though, some glitch in the permitting process or an
unreasonable landlord who refuses to cooperate. Alas, without a
proper space in which to work, their innovative ideas never
materialize. But one day, with the right space…

Perhaps an even more destructive form of procrastination occurs w/
those who make well considered, complete work: truly remarkable pieces
that illicit powerful reactions from most people who see them. The
tragedy here is that despite all of the positive feedback and their
professed desire to pursue a career as a working metalsmith, they
don’t take the leap of faith necessary to make their desires manifest.
They shy away from compliments and discount their work through self
deprecation. Their pieces are given away to friends or sold at
venues and at prices that fall way beneath the caliber of the work.
This is fine if it gives them what they really desire. The making
itself may, in fact, be enough for them (it should be, shouldn’t it?)
But if they really want to make a go of it; if they truly want to
support themselves as jewelers and metalsmiths, is this the road to
their goal? What’s standing in their way? What’s standing in the way
of any of us?

One of the big answers, of course, is obvious: Fear. Fear of
failuRe: What if nobody’s interested in my work? Fear of
embarrassment: What if they find out what kind of an artist I REALLY
am? Fear of the unknown: What if this new direction leads nowhere?
Fear of loss: I’ve had this idea in my mind for so long; dare I risk
losing it by trying to actually make it? Fear of what comes next:
Well, that’s it, no new ideas and I’m all dried up.

It’s tough to leave the relative safety of the sketchpad for the
risky business of 3 dimensions. It’s safe and easier to sit on the
hub of a wheel with decisions and commitments radiating, spoke like,
outwards in all directions . Choose one and all other options are
negated. Choose none and all possibilities remain open. Quite the
Catch-22. I’ve sat on that hub quite few times and, despite the fact
that I know better, I’ll probably be climbing right back on it next
week., fears whirling 'round my head. Maybe in tomorrow’s light one
of the two possible solutions for that all but completed neck piece
will finally stand out. (God forbid I should make the WRONG
decision.) Perhaps if I just had a more pleasant environment in
which to work these decisions would come easier. I’m not really
sure that I want to stick my neck out and enter a particular
competition-- one from which I’ve been rejected several times-- and
subject myself to professional humiliation. And really, it’s much more
pleasant to sit up here in the office, pecking away on my trusty Mac
than being out in the studio beginning the new body of work that’s due
in California two weeks hence. (Suppose it isn’t as good as my last
stuff?)

But on a fundamental level I know that safety can sometimes be
complacency and that the best work often enters through the door
marked DISCOMFORT. If you don’t turn the key in the car’s ignition
your chances of having an accident go way down, but so do your chances
of making it 10 miles to a meeting that could change your life.
Sometime the fluttering wings of those butterflies in your stomach
stir up some wonderful things. You can’t make an omelet without first
breaking a few eggs. Like they say at the gym: "No pain, no gain."
Even clich�s have there roots in truth.


#6

Thanks Andy Cooperman for sharing your wonderful essay.

There is another twist to the tool junkie’s approach to
procrastination - that I have discovered . . . chores and
housecleaning (not one of my favorite pastimes). When my husband (who
knows me well), finds me cleaning something - like washing the car or
cleaning some corner that needs tackling - he will come up to me and
say, “Okay, what are you procrastinating?” Tackling the brainless
cleaning task does take me away from the “creative” task at hand - and
I then will laugh at myself when I realize it is an act of
procrastination. It is a rather productive way to procrastinate,
though - at least the family benefits. Leaping is important and I
agree, learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable is
important.

When I gave up on waiting for the “perfect” time to proceed with my
life’s goal of exploring our medium - and took the major leap of faith

  • I kept an invisible bottle of “courage” pills right next to my
    nutritional supplements. They are big whopper “horse pills” and
    sometimes hard to swallow - but you know, the bottle is never empty!
    It is fascinating to me how many new experiences there are to be had -
    and it is very important to know oneself as we proceed on our
    individual paths. Still, I sure am enjoying learning the similarities
    in processing our fears etc. - helps a lot!

That’s all - loved your essay. And yes, I too am a tool junkie - but
have had to learn to work with the tools at hand (minimal budget!).
Just wish that dang hydraulic press would leave me alone!! A stretch
of exploring the press last summer was way too fun! I’m sure I will
somehow indulge in one before long. Am giving the decision a little
time to determine if I will have enough hours in my life to create
deep draw forms or will the 20 pounder be sufficient? :slight_smile:

Aloha,
Cynthia


#7

Hi all,

I volunteer at my children’s school. I teach all of the grade levels
and putting together projects for them is very stimulating for my own
creativity. Most schools are happy to have the help and the children
are very enthusiastic.

Pauline


#8
    There is another twist to the tool junkie's approach to
procrastination - that I have discovered . . . chores and
housecleaning (not one of my favorite pastimes).  When my husband
(who knows me well), finds me cleaning something - like washing the
car or cleaning some corner that needs tackling - he will come up to
me and say, "Okay, what are you procrastinating?"  Tackling the
brainless cleaning task does take me away from the "creative" task
at hand - and I then will laugh at myself when I realize it is an
act of procrastination.  It is a rather productive way to
procrastinate, though - at least the family benefits. 

I call it “dithering”, that moment when you’re poised on the diving
board, just before you leap into the freezing water. It’s amazing what
nasty awful chores don’t look half so bad when you’re poised on the
edge of a difficult design project, and how much you can get done in
that state. With me, it’s when I almost know what I’m going to do, but
not quite. I’ve learned over the years that the brain is still working
on the problem in the background, and the dithering is to keep the
hands busy while that’s happening. So it’s only procrastination in a
sense. There’s real creative work going on, with only occasional
flashes on insight to hint at the subconscious mental processes. When
you do sit down at the bench, it all comes flooding out.

Janet Kofoed


#9

Andrew C

You have shown great insight in the way many of use abuse our
precious time. I winced more than once while reading your essay. My
wife nudging me with such thoughts as ’ That describes you to a “T”.

To this all too true message I would like to add the following
possible antidotes to the virus of procrastination.

As regards the tool collecting, I have yet to find a cure, but a
good way of side tracking the purchasing such tools is to think of the
way you "did without " in times gone by. Or at the very least, look
at tools way out of your wallets reach.

My best therapy to date has been to employ others that need help to
improve their techniques and that have a good sense of humour. This
covers most of the other problems set out. And if you volunteer for
work that you like within the trade such as helping out at the local
gem club or writing for a magazine. ( I offer some articles to a local
magazine called “Metal Stone and Glass”, see them at the Tuson show).
Simply put, try putting other things in your life so as to forget the
notion of procrastination. Surround yourself with positive people and
flee the negative ones that seem to always be attracted to you.

By recognising the good you have to offer the bad/fearful may just
disappear enough to allow you to go forward.

That big problem of thinking that your work isn’t good enough can be
overcome easily. Put someone you trust between you and the purchaser
and allow them to make up their minds as to the quality and artistry
in each piece. you would be amazed at how others see your works.

As for fear…we all live with it and all we can do is have
good friends and a good sense of humour. Try not taking yourself too
seriously and think of the last piece you made as just another step
toward the perfection that you think you need. Do some work that you
see as crazy and see the reactions others give in relation to your
weird pieces. Again you will be amazed. Remember that others are
supposed to gain pleasure from your works as much as you do, and who
are you to stop them enjoying such things? :wink:

Best regards to all
William Russell


#10

David,

   Hi Loren; It seems whether it's a private customer, and there's
significant financial incentive, or it's a customer for my day job
employer and there's not as much pressure ( I do work on commission
with a base wage, so there could be incentive), there are some jobs
where getting started is like pulling teeth.  The other day, it
occured to me why I believe procrastination and perfectionism are
related.  I believe that in both cases, one has internalized an
anticipated external source of approval.  Now in custom work,
that's hard to avoid.  Custom work is, by nature, playing to the
audience. 

Where the work is conceived by the customer to a great extent, I have
to agree. In my case, the limitations imposed by the physics of the
knots themselves constrain both the customer and the maker to certain
patterns. Perhaps that generates some stress, as well, as I have
sometimes been forced to refuse a commission that I felt couldn’t be
completed satisfactorily.

On the other hand, once I am sure that the particular job is do-able,
and I’ve gotten a deposit from the customer, I generally shed the
reluctance and find myself impatient to begin. :wink:

   But just as some men can sometimes hear their wife's voice in
their head when they are about to leave the seat up, I have visions
of the scenario of that customer we sometimes refer to as. . . well,
psychologically oriented around a certain bodily orifice.  As for
those, I've  tried never showing weakness, but it's no good,
they'll just wear you down if they can't get you to split hairs with
them from the begining.  Still, I think the ideal situation is one
in which, at least periodically, we can act as the sole arbitor of
goodnes where our work is concerned.  Like an actor, there are
thousands of bit parts in our lives, and occaissionally, that one
great role that makes one want carry on. 

I guess I’m incredibly lucky in in that regard. I’ve almost never had
to deal with someone I didn’t like, and since I’m pretty much the sole
authority on complex turk’s head jewelry, I don’t get much in the way
of argument. I’m asked if I can do thus-and-so and can generally
answer “yes” or “no” within hours, perhaps minutes. If I find they are
asking for simple stuff, I cheerfully refer them to my "competitors"
and wish them well. I’ve never had anyone insist that I should do
something after I’ve explained why I won’t, or can’t, do it.

Loren
http://www.golden-knots.com/
lorenzo@intnet.net