Sustainable creativity and creative sufficiency

December 15, 2009

Michael Nobbs,  an awgrad friend, wrote about ‘sustainable creativity’. Faced with chronic fatigue syndrome, he  had to find a way to keep creating despite physical limitations.

His journey from being a driven, stressed artist, trying to complete large paintings, to slowing down and making small, easily finished drawings has been beautiful to witness. It is nothing short of a radical change in consciousness over a relatively short period.  As often is the case, his journey has parallels to my own process of calming down and letting things unfold, rather than forcing things to happen. 

Michael’s ideas about sustainable creativity have to do with finding out how to keep creating despite obstacles. How to keep going, even when you do have to draw in bed.  And how to take small steps, and keep taking them until you build up a body of work.

Once committed to this process, you find that not only are you building up a body of work, but a supply of disciplines and habits as well that enable you to keep working.

I would like to add to this theme by bringing in my own recent insights…on ‘sufficiency’.  Used in Twist’s, ‘Soul of Money’,  to mean ‘enough’, this concept is another tool on the path to more gently supporting one’s creative self. 

Book excerpt:

‘I suggest that if you are willing to let go of the chase to acquire… always more and let go of that way of perceiving the world, then you can take all that energy and attention and invest it in what you have. When you do that you will find unimagined treasures….’

I read the book 2 years ago, but it seems to take awhile to actually integrate the new insights deeply enough to effect a real change  in one’s life.  For me, creative sufficiency is about realizing that I already have enough-  of a lot of the things I’ve been chasing after for the last several years.  Once you start basing your view on ‘enough’ rather than lack, it seems as if the world gets softer and more open.

One practical example of this in my life is that for various reasons (to make my business financially successful, for example) I’ve felt obliged to accept every commission that came my way whether it was something I wanted to do right then or not. The rewards of this were, admittedly, substantial: solving a customer’s problem,  financial return, the satisfaction of completing a job well, and the chance to create using my skills.

The down side was the stress of too much work at the same time; I kept getting rerouted from my own projects; and I had little time to give my home and my health the attention they needed. But most of all, I realized  that I was working hard trying to generate new work, when all along I’ve been sitting on a treasure; we must have hundreds of pieces of sellable artwork here at home. Because neither Rende nor I do galleries on a regular basis, it just keeps stacking up.

And because I was often working to other people’s briefs and deadlines, I haven’t had the time and focus needed to find a way to move  the work we already have.

So for me, the beginnings of creative sufficiency is appreciating this huge resource, and making it a priority to get it out to the people who will appreciate it as well. I plan to do this mostly through my blog and site, so stay tuned.

And on the subject of sustainable creativity, I have decided this coming year to be more selective about commissioned work and focus mostly on the above as well as completing and designing my dementia book in small steps,  developing my webshop  and  my creativity workshops.
Already I feel more relaxed, less driven, happier, and….more creative!!

Later: I’m starting with a mini oil painting on board series, see ‘Featured Artwork’ category. The first one has been posted Dec. 16th and will be available to buy for 2 weeks.

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