Thursday, June 18, 2009

Staying in the Flow

When we're making art, we're in a change process. The paint or yarn or beads we work with change in front of us as we make a brushstroke, throw the shuttle and beat the weft, or thread on a new bead. Everything shifts from moment to moment.

This play is a big part of the wonderful energy we feel when we make art. Often we like the progression. Sometimes we don't. What happens with you when things are not looking the way you want them to? When that green you just used somehow throws the balance off in the work you're doing.

Part of your response will depend on how well you manage your inner critic. The critic loves pinches in the artistic process, and will seize them and become merciless with it's yammering. When this has happened to me, I have tended to freeze. The part of my brain that registers fear or anxiety gets triggered, and often in the past I have had to stop working.

This part of the brain is called the amygdala. It is responsible for fight, flight and freeze responses. It's quite useful at times, but not when making art. When this part of the brain gets activated, our decision-making becomes compromised. We actually temporarily LOSE IQ points, making solutions to that glob of green impossible to find.

There is a way to short-circuit this fear or anxiety response, and dive back into the creative flow. It is simply to breathe, 5 seconds in - deep into the belly; 5 seconds out - releasing fully. Breathe deeply and slowly for 5 minutes or more. Your body will start to relax, and you will become centered. You might focus for a moment on how much you enjoy making art. From this place, your thoughtful and reflective brain areas will start to work again.

You will have dissipated the energy of the inner critic and possibilities will begin to appear. You can take a nice refreshing stretch and move right back into the rhythms of weaving, beading or painting. You can come up with a cool way to integrate that gob of green.
How will you remember to do this next time the critic strikes? Practice.
Make it a point to practice slow deep breathing several times throughout the day - when you get up, when you sit down at your computer, when you come to a red light, before you start making art. Remembering to take a deep breathing break when you need the clarity becomes much easier when you make it a habit throughout your day.
How about trying it right now?

1 comment:

freebird said...

I set a piece like that aside and let a good night's sleep (that means it might be a few nights worth as it may be too heavy on my mind the first night) deal with it. So many pieces look different in the light of day or a thought on what to do to change or adapt a poor choice may arise while my body is sleeping.