Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Creative Risks: What is Risky for Me?

When I think about obstacles to weaving, two of mine are making time and handling creative risks.

Last time I blogged about creative risks, I shared a poem on an evening when I'd slammed into the problem with my scarf warp. Your responses were really interesting to me, particularly because my post was so vague. No one knew whether I was talking about weaving-related risks or other risks in life.

Thank you all for the great scarf advice. I'll be putting it into practice later this week and I'll definitely be blogging about it so we can all see how it comes out!!

Over the last week, as I've tried to figure out what's next with my scarf, I've also tried to look at my attitudes and emotions around this project. Hopefully I can change the attitudes that are holding me back.

What makes a project feel risky to me?

Not all projects feel risky to me.

  • A project where I really care about the outcome - where I have an idea of how I want it to come out, rather than just seeing what happens
  • Precious yarn - scarce, expensive, unusual, or with an unusual emotional attachment (like this most recent scarf)
  • Diving in way over my head technically so I have trouble figuring out what to do almost every time I work on it
Not risky:
  • Projects in a workshop lead by a teacher with a group of students
  • Following a design in Handwoven
  • Samples being done to study a weave structure or new technique
  • Warp where I'm OK with it just not working out - somewhat indifferent to the project (although I try never to start projects like that - I like to be passionate about what I do - even when passion is exhausting!)
This latest project, with it's limited quantity of discontinued yarns, with the yarn all coming from a special visit to a special yarn store, has the yarn risk. It also has the strong feeling about the outcome element of risk. Technically, there's also some risk since I'm not sure I understand specifically what weave structure to use.

Bailey scratches this rug into a pile when he's frustrated

What's at risk for me?

Well, there's always the question of yarn and time. I worry more about time than about yarn....because I have a lot of yarn!!! I never have enough time to do all the things I want to do.

Another risk is the emotional energy it takes to do a project, especially a risky project. I don't always have the emotional energy to spare.

The big risk for me however, is that feeling stalled or blocked or technically stymied makes me very frustrated. My typical pattern with projects that aren't working out, is to flit to the next project. Then, when I have about 10 projects all stalled and stuck, I give up entirely on doing anything creative or artistic. Sometimes for years.

Doesn't exactly help with my goal of being a prolific weaver!

When I tackle something that I know is risky, I have to make sure I have the emotional energy to fight through my frustrations. Plus, I need to work out a creative process where I can troubleshoot problems in projects and avoid that stuck, blocked, permanently stalled state.

But getting into that state is the big risk to me at this point.

Times when I've taken risks

I'm definitely fine with the level of risks versus safety in my life in general. I'm less adventurous in my kayak or on the hiking trail than Jim (my husband and favorite outdoor companion), but I'm OK with where I am on that risk-taking scale.

I've done adventurous things like travel, move (twice) to a new part of the country where I didn't know anyone, change careers, buy a book and a loom and teach myself to weave. I can take risks.

I'm just not quite where I want to be with working my way through roadblocks in weaving projects, and I want find the right level of risk taking for me with my creative projects.


Susan said...

It's risk that makes us stretch and go beyond our comfort zone... and learn new things.

But nobody said you had to leave your map at home. So research and plan perhaps before risking those special yarns?

Plan a route and some detours so you don't get stuck.

I'm a firm believer that weaving starts with a pen and paper ( or computer) I guess it's my nature... I'm not much of a gambler either.


Leigh said...

Interesting post, Sue. I've never really thought of my creativity in terms of taking risks, but in reading this, I really do have areas that are risky for me. Mostly in terms of yarn, as you say, especially my handspun! I've only used it in one weaving project in the 9 years I've been weaving. I do tend to be willing to jump in over my head when it comes to tecnhique. My rationale is that I always learn more from my mistakes than from getting something right the first time.

Theresa said...

Susan has some very wise words! You don't have to leave a map at home. :-)
Having said that tho, I love to just jump right in with something and try it, then research why it went wrong, if it did. I think though that I accept the frustration as part of the process and I get stalled like everyone else, it just doesn't bother me so much. Sooner or later I'll get back to it, it will work or it won't and even if I scrap a project mid stream that's okay too. I got enjoyment and used some creative thought somewhere along the way to that point, be it the actual end or the end of my interest in it. I usually finish more than not and I don't feel the need to compete with myself or anyone else.
Now, the precious yarn conundrum. I have lots of yarn I love and lots that has sentimentality attached. I fawn over it regularly, but when I actually go to use I have made that decision for better or worse go for it. It's yarn, whatever memory that is attached to it is mine to keep no matter where the yarn ends up. Maybe take some little scraps and start a diary of your first trip to Webs to celebrate the memory and then give yourself permission to enjoy using it for better or worse. It's yarn, it's only yarn and when all is said and done, not very important in the scheme of things. All the things you feel about making something and the creative process are pretty normal, so don't get hung up on them, acknowledge it, devote a little thought to it, improve where you can and then free yourself to go forward.

Delighted Hands said...

So, you are just getting to know yourself better; weaving has taught you this. I think we all need to push ourselves so that we learn because we need catalysts for growth.

Charlotte said...

This is a great post! When I first got my loom I was so conscious that there were so many things I wanted to try... but I wanted it all to turn out perfectly so I could show people and be proud. I deliberated for ages on the type of yarn, colour, pattern. Everything I wove seemed to be so crucial and it all mattered too much. Then I realised I've got a whole lifetime of weaving if I want it, what you are weaving today doesn't matter that much. Take some risks but as Susan says, maybe calculate them first.

charlotte said...

Like Susan, I believe that weaving starts with a pen and paper or computer, perhaps followed by test weaving with different reeds and varying ppi, and perhaps different methods of finishing. I think one takes a risk everytime one does something new, and not just weaves from a project description. But then, real creativity is doing something completely new! And you have been really creative lately!

Dorothy said...

I love the old saying "nothing ventured, nothing gained" every new project has adventure for me, the more you push your limits the more you can learn.

I'm a great risk taker, on my own terms ;)

My next risk is to try and spin some handspun suitable to weave a scarf for my Mother's birthday, and weave it,if it doesn't turn out stunningly lovely she might not wear it! I hope I can do this.

Life Looms Large said...

Thanks for all of your thoughts about taking creative risks! It's interesting to hear other people's experiences and perspectives - and to help me unravel the snarl that sometimes gets me stuck.

Fortunately, this week I'm not feeling stuck, but it has been a busy week so progress has been kind of slow.

It always surprises me how much planning weaving takes. I like to plan (sometimes more than I like to execute actually), but with weaving I sometimes feel like it's too much planning. It helped me a lot when an experienced weaver in my guild told me that she still plans a lot. I somehow thought that all the calculations and math ahead of time would somehow fall by the wayside as I got experienced.

Thanks for all of your thoughts!


Sharon said...

This is a great post Sue. I can really relate to the emotional energy that projects can suck out you. I feel that too, though for me all weaving is risky because I'm never comfortable, always learning. I would love to find a comfort level. It would be risky for me not to weave, just because I've invested literally thousands of dollars in equipment - I would feel guilty.