I’ve been thinking about deadlines lately and creativity - and I wonder does having the pressure of a deadline spur creative success or does it hamper it?
Sometimes we need a deadline to motivate action, and when we are truly down the the wire, when there is no time to hem and haw, action and adrenaline can become a beautiful cocktail that leads success ---- sometimes. Have the pressure of time can mute perfectionism, which sometimes works to inhibit the creative process. There’s just no time for it, when you have to get the thing made.
Not to brag, but I watch Stephen Colbert clips pretty regularly - and for his Late Show, on Thursdays, they film two episodes in one day. How is it that they can produce twice as much content in the time and space that they Monday through Wednesday produce only one? Well, I am sure there is a great deal of planning and working ahead. I.e. I am guessing some of the the second show is actually getting made during Monday through Thursday, but I have also heard Colbert mention that there is an intensity to those days of filming that is certainly infused with adrenaline. There is no second guessing. His staff just has to perform, has to write the joke, and move on. He has said that this fast pace of working makes you focus and nail it the first time.
Creativity under pressure can work - but it’s hard to maintain that level of adrenaline all of the time. That much adrenaline can be unhealthy, and I think ultimately it can lead to sloppiness and mistakes, with no time to fix. Also, even if the quality of work is maintained, it will lead to burnout.
I like having an excess of time that allows me to make those mistakes upfront - first thing. I like having time to clear the cobwebs - to get the bad ideas out in order to make room for the better ideas.
I guess I have a certain amount of performance anxiety, but there is also a benefit to having more time for a project. Having more time allows a project to breathe - allows for the ideas to come in the shower or while driving. As a project evolves, as you evolve, there is adequate time to rewrite and rethink everything.
But that kind of time can sometimes be unproductive when our first choices and intuition are often the correct one.
Word on the street is that the current cast of Queer Eye, the group of five, talented men, was the first choice, but there was a lot of time and effort spent affirming that instinctual choice. Sometimes we spend a lot of time ruling out other options when we ultimately go with our initial choices.
How do we know when to trust our first impulses and when should we push pass them and on to better and more creative ideas?
I am not sure if I know the answer to that, and mostly there are deadlines and outside forces that limit and shape our time and choices so that we are left with whatever we get.
Adam Grant, a self-proclaimed precrastinator, speaks of the benefits of some procrastination. He believes that there is a preferred balance in starting fast and finishing slow. That it is best to give yourself enough time to evolve ideas by getting them started as soon as possible but let them marinate for a while before finishing.
What do you think?
Do you need a lot of time to be your creative best?
Or do you work best under pressure?
So, I have an inner boyscout who fantasizes about making hand carved birds or small figurines, and a few years ago, I bought myself a carving knife and some balsa wood for my birthday. I fiddled with it trying to carve some fish. They were a bit clumsy, and I never got very far with it.
Then, while living at Spring Bird, Pat passed along a pocket knife (that I had given him while we were dating) to Abe who seems most at home at the fire pit, stripping long pieces of bark off of a stick with his foot propped up on a stone. I am jealous of his presence, his ability to pass the time guilt-free- languidly - to fall into a calm rhythm. While I am busily tackling projects of all sorts and stripes, I ache to just stop and sit and be with a stick.
Sticks are all around us at Spring Bird. Someone once asked me what I collect, and I think she didn’t believe me when I answered, “sticks”. Certain ones call to me, and I pick them up to display.
Well, I made some time recently to perch myself on top of my picnic table with knife in hand to peel back the bark on some sticks. If I couldn’t carve an intricate fish or bird figurine, maybe I could carve a snake. The idea of carving a snake from a stick makes me laugh. Can it even be called carving? In addition to crudely shaping a head and a tail, I wood burned geometric patterns. I loved all of it, and love my slithering snakes. They remind me of playing with a wooden snake as a child. Then, I found snakes to be slightly frightening, but I have grown to really appreciate their symbolism as a sign of rebirth, feminine power, and creativity. I want to reclaim snakes as a symbol of the goddess and not as evil.
BREAKING NEWS! I wrote this blog a couple of days ago. Then, tonight, my cats caught a snake! They were whipping it around. It showed its pink mouth at them. My Mom, who has been eager to see a snake at Spring Bird captured it all with her phone. It was very exciting! We think it is a young snake. I am guessing it is a type of garter snake, but it definitely looks different than the other greener ones that I have seen here. We kept the cats away from it, and eventually it slithered back into the brush. Can anyone identify it? Check out the slideshow below:
Check out the “carving” process below. Maybe this will inspire your inner boyscout?
Snakes For Sale!
And snakes are currently for sale at Spring Bird Cottage! $5 each!!!
Carving Snake Sticks!
Clean the bark off of sticks.
We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
I can't think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting.
All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind.”
This is your world
Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you're willing to practice, you can do.”
The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.”
Mix up a little more shadow color here, then we can put us a little shadow right in there. See how you can move things around? You have unlimited power on this canvas -- can literally, literally move mountains”
Let’s build a happy little cloud.
I am so pleased and excited to announce this year's Spring Bird Artist Residency Recipient, Dawn Bertuca!
Dawn's application spoke so well to the spirit of this residency, which supports artists, writers, and makers needing to find time away from busy lives.
Furthermore her work as a nature photographer connects so well to the mission of Spring Bird which seeks to connect humans with nature, to notice the patterns and changes in the seasons, and to use our creativity to build the world that we imagine.
During her residency, Dawn hopes to begin a new series of macro photography that will look at the patterns in nature. The residency will allow her to have time and space to capture just the right image!
I am so excited to see what develops (pun intended), and I think our founder, Torkel Korling, would be pleased that our first recipient is a photographer like him.
I posted some of Dawn's photographs's below, but follow her work and see more here:
Instagram: @dawnbertuca and @everybeautifuldayDB
Thank you to all who applied, your projects were inspiring!
I gotta stop feeling invisible
And start feeling invincible
Hate feeling impossible
The hardest thing is believing in your dreams
-From Invincible by Anime
I am talking about how razor companies began telling women that our body hair was gross and unhygienic in order to sell razors to the entire population.
In the same way, self-help can create a feeling that you are inadequate - fractured in some way. Then the one who points out our inadequacies miraculously offers a solution.
But most often self-help comes from a genuine place of wanting to help people live the lives we want to live.
And because this genre is often targeted to and used by women -it is discounted as less important or less significant work.
I hate this, too.
And I think a reason why women often are attracted to self-help is that we have lived entire lives being told we weren't fully human.
We were wrong from the start.
We have been taught to be self-reflective; self-critical from birth to get better so that we might matter to someone or for someone not for ourselves.
So, what if we worked to love ourselves - to matter to ourselves? What if we helped ourselves to be the person we want to be - for ourselves?
What if we show up for ourselves on our own terms and believe in that version of ourselves?
What would we look like? What would we do with our time? What would our lives be for?
PS The Above Quote is from a song used in the soundtrack of Spiderman into the Spiderverse. If you have not see this movie now! And Paddington 2!!! Both will help you to feel full of life and inspiration!
Pat began the Forest Garden by defining its perimeter. It’s important to have strong defenses against hungry deer. He built a thick wall from the cutting down of honeysuckles, an invasive weed shrub. If the deer can’t see where they can land, they won’t jump. So far, it’s been pretty effective at keeping away our dear, deer friends.
In his first round of planting which included pawpaws, strawberries, raspberries, perennial onions, herbs and flowers, he planted a couple of rows of willow. The intention for the willow was to develop living hedges. Now after a couple of years getting established, our little shoots have grown into beautiful, long branches.
And after getting inspired from the likes of Mary Reynolds and Monty Don, we really want our gardens to embody a sense of magic and wonder. Our gardens have the potential to give us so much more than their fruits. We want our forest garden, in particular, to be a place for Spring Bird guests to experience and connect with the cultivation of food and beauty.
So, getting back to the willow, springtime is the best season to work with willow because the plants are still dormant and cuttings will have the whole growing season to become established. Over Spring Break, as a family, we decided to harvest some of the willow to make living willow arches.
It’s my intention that these two arches will be a focal point and add a level of sacredness to the garden. I hope the birds will enjoy them, as well. Now all I need is a bird bath to complement them!
Anyhow, I find myself sputtering inadequate responses, because I am unsure myself why I do all of the things. I feel a certain embarrassment or maybe shame around it. Like, perhaps I should be satisfied with less and that the trying lots of different things is connected to a baseline feeling of lack. In other words, it’s an addiction.
But then I get defensive of my basket full of creative pursuits. Why can’t I be interested in a lot of things? So many of us are these days. We are a population of multi-passionates, who are adapting within an era of rapid change and uncertainty. Having many tools and skills at our disposal is smart.
It is fair to say that I have a fear that I am not going to be as developed in any one medium or area because I keep switching amongst my interests, but then I think about artists like Leonardo da Vinci and so many like him. No one thinks, “Geez, I wish Leo wasn’t interested in so many different things. I mean pick just one, already, gosh.” (BTW, I am in no way comparing my art to da Vinci - just our multi-passionate-ness).
Another thing, I feel that all of the things that I do are connected and feed into each other. Painting informs weaving. Writing inspires illustrations. Dyeing deepens my interest in nature and kindles new quilt designs.
I often think it would be easier to pick one thing because of marketing, but I just love all of my children and want to continue to grow in my creative power and knowledge with all of them in tow.
In short, I follow my curiosity and in doing so learn more about myself and what I can offer the world. Why impose limits?
Are you a multi-passionate? What drives your creative interests and pursuits?
PS Thank you for enduring my Andy Rooney style rant here. Not sure who I am yelling this at - probably myself.
As you know, I write Woolgathering, a nature magazine about our connection to the seasons. Part of the mission of this magazine is to inspire awareness of the patterns and cycles in nature, which requires observation and a practice of noticing.
My process of doing this has been most consistently to write notes on the list making app on my phone. Last Summer, the kids and I kept nature journals that would capture the place and its happenings of a particular moment in time. It also made note of the moon cycle and weather. It was involved, but I wanted to get better and keeping a log of the natural occurrences - the “firsts” and “lasts” of any season. I tried a couple of written methods that I incorporated into my Annalog Planners, but they didn’t endure. I really want to create a visual representation of these seasonal changes - so that I can grasp the feeling of the season instantly.
Another practice that I have let go of is keeping a sketchbook. At some point last year, I decided that my drawing and painting had to be “for” something, that I could eventually sell. In other words, if I was making something, it had to directly lead to making money. And, I have come to realize that I really miss having this place to play with ideas. I miss the experimental nature of a sketchbook and having a place to just make something for its own sake.
Finally, one lovely practice that I started last year was to send a monthly emailed Almanac to subscribers that recounted all natural and creative milestones of that month. I really enjoy taking time to reflect on all that happened during a month and sharing this with readers who may not be able to visit Spring Bird. They can get a taste of what’s going on and stay updated, etc. AND although I try to take pictures of nature, they do not always capture the feeling of the season.
SO, it occurred to me that I could revisit my sketchbook by visually portraying the monthly natural happenings, and share the illustrations within the context of the monthly Almanac! Duh!
Anyway, I had the most fun making this illustration of March, which saw our first duck egg getting laid on the 2nd, the great melt happening on the 13th, snowdrops, jonquils, and chipmunks poking up on the 14th, skunk cabbage sprouting on the 17th, and we planted milkweed seeds also on the 17th in the upper meadow. Also, throughout the month, we saw flocks of robins return, and the bucks shed their antlers. The grasses are still brown, and the leaves exist in paper thin layers, devoid of color, and oh yes, there is the mud!
If you would like to be receiving monthly updates about Spring Bird, please subscribe here. And if you have signed up for monthly updates but haven’t been receiving them? Check your spam folder. Sometimes we get pushed there. You have to mark us as “not spam”. We are working on trying to prevent this from happening with our next Almanac.
Speaking of, the March Almanac will be mailed at the end of this month, which is REALLY soon. So, look for that in your inbox.
Thank you for going through this lengthy process of discernment. I encourage you to notice seasonal changes. You don’t have to write them down or draw them, unless you want to, of course. Just notice the things happening around you. It’s amazing what surrounds us!
So, I impatiently watched him make a mark and erase it immediately because “It wasn’t right!” He repeated this process growing more frustrated with each attempt. I tried to explain that those first marks rarely are “right”. That is what sketching is for.
You have to make a mark and make adjustments by leaving your first marks there on the paper. The first time my beloved painting teacher Billy Ray Sandusky told me this, I thought he was crazy. Leave your mistakes? Aren’t our mistakes just the evidence of our inability - our drawing shame - evidence of how much we don’t know? Don’t we want to erase them as quickly as we can?
What Billy Ray wanted us to know is that when we leave our marks, our mistakes, we can see what didn’t work so that we can try something else. Often when we erase our mistake, we will make the same one over again and again. By leaving our first marks, we can know what not to do, and draw marks until we get closer and closer through studying and observing the spatial relationships of our drawing. Eventually we will get it “right” ?
This idea of sketch is powerful! We make tentative, but brave first moves. Sketching is testing it out, feeling the space, learning it, assessing it, and in time making it better! Expect mistakes and failed first attempts. It is part of the process. How else will you know what’s right?
In the end, Abe satisfyingly drew his person for his school project. He settled into the process, grew more patient with himself, made some marks, erased some more, and finally got it right.
NOTE: I drew this sketched portrait with no eraser. So, these are all the marks that I made. Some of them worked and lots didn’t, but I think I got closer to drawing my resemblance. I do know that it was fun change of pace.
Big Plans, Small Steps
As I wrote in Monday’s post, I have my penchant for planning. I believe a planned life is a life full of intention and meaning.
I prefer paper planners for achieving goals and dreams. It helps me to write and rewrite goals and tasks, and I know there is science out there to back this up. We are more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down repeatedly.
After being dissatisfied with conventional planners, I devised my own version over these last few years. I call this paper calendar and planning system, Annalog Planners, because I like puns, but I believe that this system is adaptable to your own needs. It’s a simple framework that you can tweak to meet your work habits and preferences.
I truly believe in this system that breaks down BIG GOALS into SMALL STEPS that are then applied to your timeline. Each day counts towards building a beautiful life full of intention and meaning!
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”
To learn more, watch this informational video:
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.