Those Cute Fuzzy Little Ideas

Maybe you’re where I’ve been lately.

You just got home from a retreat or a fabulous weekend workshop or an inspiring trip to a museum. It could be anywhere–even a visit to your friend’s studio. While you were there, the ideas started buzzing. You know how it is: everything was inspiring, from the food at lunch to the border on the paper towels to the actual art itself.

By the end of the day or the weekend or the week, you were overwhelmed with ideas for stuff you couldn’t wait to try out. Cool stuff! Fabulous ideas!

You couldn’t wait to get home to your studio and get started. And then. And then? Then:  nothing. You’re home and unpacked and in your space , with your supplies all ready, and you discover that every one of those fabulous ideas has vanished. Poof! And–even worse!–no new ones have arrived to take their place.

From what I hear, we’re not alone. I gather this is fairly common. What I’ve learned from my own experience is that, rather than trying to tough it out and force those ideas to return, we need to give them time. Now, you know me: I’m not suggesting you should forget about work and go to a movie instead. No. What I’m suggesting is giving those ideas some space. Think of them like cute little animals you’ve just brought home, little kittens or puppies that were friendly and playful in the kennel but are now hiding under the bed and refusing to eat. You can’t drag them out by the scruffs of their necks. You know that. What you have to do is lure them out by doing something enticing that appears to have nothing to do with them.

Here, sadly, my little analogy breaks down because I can’t think of the art-making equivalent of dragging a piece of yarn through the room while idly whistling the theme from “The Andy Griffith Show.”

For me, working on something else is the trick. Something dull, perhaps. Some old undemanding project resurrected for some mindless handwork. Something you can do to while away the time, occupy your hands, make you look unconcerned. Rather than whining about how your fabulous ideas have abandoned you, you just work.

Almost always, sensing that they’re not the focus of your attention, those ideas will make a cautious appearance. Nothing likes to be ignored. First one, then another, they’ll begin to come out of hiding.

Try not to pounce on them. Take it slowly, let them get used to you. They’ll settle in before you know it.

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