Thoughts on Creativity and an Ode to Clothing

You know how writers have National Novel Writing Month in November and sewing and knitting enthusiasts have Me Made May? Well, songwriters have February Album Writing Month (FAWM), which I took part in for the first time last year. I just started working on my second FAWM on Saturday, and it’s got me thinking about the whole concept of creativity and how we think about the creative process.

I’ve been discovering that I think about musical creativity and “craft”-related activity (sewing, knitting, etc) in different psychological categories. For some reason, I find myself approaching songwriting and composition with a certain level of fear – has my creativity finally run out? Will I ever have another good idea? Are my current pieces as good as my first? Interestingly, I’ve never had this problem in my sewing, knitting, or other craft endeavors. I don’t put as much pressure on myself – my sense of self-worth or achievement isn’t as fundamentally tied up in these activities as it is in my music. I’m sure this is because I’m a professional musician, while my crafting is a “hobby,” but as I discussed in a previous post, I think my hobbies have a lot to teach me about my profession.

I tend to judge my musical self far too harshly and far too quickly. In fact, when I took part in my first FAWM last year, I didn’t think I’d get anywhere close to the 14 songs that are the goal of the whole project. However, since I was working towards a goal with a time limit, I allowed myself to just create without judgement, figuring I’d scrap something later if it turned out to be no good. I ended up exceeding the 14 song goal, and started to realize that songwriting is a craft – a skill you can use over and over – instead of some magical moment of inspiration that could dry up at any time.

Another thing I’ve found interesting about creativity is the time factor. When I write music, my best pieces tend to be the ones I write very quickly – recently I’ve been able to get an idea from start to finish in an hour or so. If I wait too long, I judge my ideas and they never get off the ground. However, if I do this with my sewing, it often turns into a giant mess that I just have to undo later. I find myself trying to intentionally slow down my sewing process to make sure I fully think through my ideas. For example, I spent several weeks researching for my Pavot Coat, trying to figure out where I wanted piping and contrast colors. If I has tried to whip that up overnight, it would’ve been a disaster!

However, I do occasionally have those sudden “bursts” of inspiration in my sewing as well. My colorblocked Plantain Top is the perfect example – my original plans were foiled by a faulty prewashing incident, so I improvised in the moment and came up with something I really love.

How about you? Does your creativity come in sudden bursts or do your ideas develop slowly over several days or weeks? And do you have anxiety in your creative process, or do you just get swept away by the joy of making things?

In the spirit of FAWM, today I’ll leave you with a song instead of an outfit – but it’s a clothing-inspired song! Enjoy 🙂

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