Jul 7, 2009

How to keep the blade of creativity as sharp as a katana.

I love blank paper. I lose bladder control in the exercise book aisle of Business Depot. I feel weak in the knees when presented with a new sketchbook. My skin itches when I get to the end of a notebook, because I know it means I'll be able to go and pick out a brand spanking new one. And I know I'm not the only one (I'm serious, I've had entire conversations with some of my artsy friends about how thrilling a new pack of card stock is). I think this is because a blank page, for an artist, is more than a blank page; it's potential. It's a work of art that hasn't been made yet, or a story that's yet to be written. A whole book of blank pages, for us, is a bound collection of possibilities without rules or judgment. You can see why this would be exciting, yes? Sometimes, however, a blank page is not hopeful or exciting at all. It can be stress inducing and life RUINING if: you've run out of ideas.

One of the reasons it took me so long to even consider starting a blog was that I was sure I'd run out of things to say. I figured I'd write a dozen posts, then get bored and never do it again. But then I remembered something I learned in art school: ideas beget ideas. That means the more you have, the more you have! (Why can't cookies reproduce like ideas do? Or pizzas for that matter?) It never failed. We would be assigned a project in drawing class, and I would feel like the well had run dry. Then I'd think of something, any stupid little idea, and I'd write it down. Magically, after I put down that first idea, there would be another one. And then another, even better than the first two! This would keep happening until I would have to actively cut myself off, and just pick one idea to complete before I ran out of time. I'm telling you, it's like the theory of relativity for art.

Now, let's put two and two together. (Or one and one, or seven and fifteen, whatever you want to add). You have no ideas. Or perhaps your ideas are really crappy (it happens). The cure is to carry around one of those mystical objects, full of hope and potential, free from the opinions and influences of others: a blank book. As soon as you have one idea, no matter how crappy it is, put it in the book. You will have another, which might be crappy as well. Put it in anyways. Eventually you will have a book filled from cover to cover with ideas, and at least one of them has to be inspiring to you. Not only to ideas multiply, they also get better with time. This is why the comics you wrote when you were 9 aren't nearly as funny or interesting (or good) as the comics you write now that you're in your 20's. The great thing about blank books is that you can take them where ever you go, and be creative at any point in time. I can't remember all the ideas I have in the run of a day. So when I have one that I know is a good one (or I'm deluded into thinking is a good one, it happens) I always have some paper or a book and a pen to record it, and come back to it later. Whether you're on the bus, bored at work, or waiting for a friend to meet you for coffee, all your spare minutes can be turned into valuable creativity time.

Lastly, here's a photo of me holding my favorite book, a hand made sketchbook with a silver sea horse on the cover that my best friend/cousin Jackie made for me. Thanks Jackie!