Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Thoughts on creativity/talent

This is a little bit more op-ed than my usual. 

I was on my way to run lunch errands and I ran into a coworker on our way out of the building.  She asked what I was up to and I responded with - going to Joann's, my usual.  She said - oh, yeah, you quilt.  And me with, well, this is for some Girl Scout crafts.  We parted ways with her talking about how she wished she were ____ (creative?  don't remember) and that she sort of learned to crochet when she was little..... 

Frankly, I was a little bit insulted by that.  It felt like her offhand statement (intended as a compliment that was self-deprecating) discounted hours of work at improving my "craft".  I don't know that I was born with a specific special talent for sewing or knitting or crafts or anything.  I do know that I practice it.  I know that sometimes I don't get the things to turn out the way I want them to.  I know that sometimes, I just want to try something to see if I can figure it out or to see what will happen.

I think that people who are born with a specific gift for craft are few and far between (like people with perfect pitch).  I think that most people grow the talent that they have by practice and learning - both coping skills and technique.   I was in band in middle school and high school.  I was not great.  But I practiced and took lessons, which got me much farther than I would have gone with just going to class and practicing a little on my own.  Really, like many things, you get out of it what you put in to it.

I think that my parents created a good foundation for me to find creative outlets - my mom taught me to sew when I was little and never seemed to be afraid of taking on ambitious projects (like prom dresses).  She took pottery starting from when I was in elementary school and upholstery.  My dad has some woodworking skillz.  Nothing ever turned out in the style of that guy on PBS, but I do have the pretend stove and pretend sink he made for my sister and I when we were little.  We also always had craft books floating around the house - either kid ones or my mom's.  Whenever we found projects that would be good to try, my mom was game.  She also would let us play with her clay or glaze some of the things she made.   There are a lot of ways to instill creativity in your kids - most of them involve showing them that it's part of just what you do, whether it is sewing or playing music or building things.

I like to figure things out.  Things that are not too hard.  I knit a lot of rectangles/swatches when I first started knitting again before I ever attempted something complicated like.....a scarf.  One of the things that's fun about this is that it is self directed.  You can spend as much time (or as little time) exploring the minutae of a technique as you want.  I have a bunch of pairs of the same socks, but with small tweaks here and there.  I've finally accepted that neatness counts when it comes to cutting and seam allowances.   So most of this is an exercise for me - like running or music or any other hobby. 

It is nice to be able to have something tangible at the end of the project.  Not just tangible, but useful and nice.  It is nice to be able to do something helpful with how I spend my time.  It's also nice to feel like I'm getting better at doing what I like to do -  I'm getting closer to hitting the mark of what I tried to make sometimes.  And sometimes.  Not so much.

gray checkers This is not what I was trying to make.  It is what I felt compelled to put together and I like how it looks, but it does not read how I wanted it to read (baby quilt).  And when I look at it, I hear Nina Garcia in my head saying that it is inappropriate and I missed the mark. Luckily there are no panels of judges in real life.  I'm at the part where I'm thinking about what to do with it - finish it like it is or figure out how to make it feel like I want it to look.  And, while that's not an easy or real fun part of the process, it is a part of the process.


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