Being Creative in Less Than Ideal Circumstances

A guest post by Victoria Rose Martin

Have you ever heard the saying “may you live in interesting times”? No one seems to be sure where the quote originates, though some attribute it to a Chinese curse. Let me assure you in my corner of the world, the month of May was very interesting indeed. It all started a couple of months ago when my husband and I decided that we’ve had enough of a yard and a pool and want to live in a condo with less maintenance. The good news is we sold our house and have bought a condo. The bad news is during the inspection of our current home they found really old electrical and we had to get a rewire. The past four weeks have been a whirl of electricians carving room long trenches into walls, plasterers, drop cloths, dust and noise. And living in my studio.
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My studio before.

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My studio as living quarters. Note the figures drying on the bed next to paperwork.

When I say "living in my studio" I don’t mean it in a figurative lighthearted way like “oh the last 3 weeks I’ve just about lived in my studio.” Since my art studio was one of the two rooms in the house with updated electric it quite literally became our home. We dragged a mattresses in and for the past month we have eaten, slept, dressed, watched TV, brushed our teeth and surprisingly I even made a little bit of art within all of the confusion.
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When the drop cloths came up I could work on the dining room table. Note the newly plastered wall in the background.

Living in a tiny space was at times uncomfortable and absolutely not ideal, but the good news is; we’ve survived. Nobody died although on several occasions I could have choked somebody to death, it all turned out okay. The situation made me realize that sometimes we can get too set in our ways and require ideal circumstances before we can be creative. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you too are waiting for perfection, you’re probably not going to get it. So what are you waiting for? Life isn’t predictable and situations aren’t always ideal. Eventually our favorite brush needs replacing, or our pen runs out of ink, our or we potentially have no roof over our head. And like Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen, there are times we just have to Let it Go because we’re helpless to circumstances.
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Screenshot of Disney.com featuring the movie Frozen.

So what can you do when life throws a creative curveball? Here are 3 hints to help keep you on track: 1.     First, remind yourself that whatever it is, this too shall pass. Yes, it may be awkward and you may feel defeated but it’s not forever. Trust me, eating dinner from a slab of plywood on a mattress isn’t exactly sexy or romantic, but it’s temporary and hopefully soon it will be a distant memory. There are a lot of people in the world who don’t have the luxury of running water, a mattress or an entire room devoted to being a studio. Remember to appreciate what you do have and try to be happy because it probably could be worse. 2.     Do you have a strong desire to make art? Then don’t let outside forces stop you. Think of making art was working out your “creativity muscles.” Besides, making art can be a great escape from the reality of a situation. There were days here when the house shook under my feet and I found a great escape in the pages of my sketchbook.
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My sketchbook and pens on the steps of my front porch.

3.     And finally, keep your eye on the end goal. Remind yourself that you hold the keys to change the outcome whether it’s good or bad. If your friend was going through a hard time what would you say to him or her to make them feel better? Before you read further, seriously think about what you’d say. Now, imagine that you are that friend receiving advice and say those very same words to yourself.
The Art of Happiness

Cover art for The Art of Happiness
Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Happiness

And if you can’t find the way to be happy or express gratitude perhaps the book The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama might be a useful resource. While researching I found a free download of the book here: http://jodilley.com/books/aoh/aoh.pdf If you’re going through hard times, document your situation and share your experiences on your blog. There might be another person going through the same exact thing and you both might discover you’re not alone. Victoria Rose Martin is an artist and designer currently living in South Florida. She is the Department Chair for Fine Art and Graphic Design at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Florida. You can visit her website at: VictoriaRoseMartin.com. U3040_CM_InnerHeroArtJournal.inddFor tips on finding the positives in yourself or your life, try Inner Hero Creative Art Journal by Quinn McDonald.

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One Response to Being Creative in Less Than Ideal Circumstances

  1. rhodyart says:

    this is the story of my life, actually. I only have a 2 1/2 room apartment and my bedroom is a painting studio, my living room is a collage studio, and my kitchen table serves as another work area. Would I like a standalone studio, either a separate room or a separate location? Sure. But I like being amidst my art spaces because it keeps me thinking about my work.
    Bravo to you for making the best of a chaotic situation

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