Sunday, 4 November 2012

Prime the Pump

Prime the pump---I had to explain this saying recently, but I think it is a good analogy for getting yourself ready to create especially when you're not feeling that creative. When a water pump is dry, water from another source has to be poured into it to get it to function properly, to start pumping and allowing the water to flow. Also it is an analogy for when something is low, such as money--more money has to be put into a venture in order to get it to generate more money. Sometimes we need to use a little of something already there to get us going. So, what are some techniques that we can use to ‘prime our creative pumps’?
What exactly is priming? For creativity there are a lot of different ways. One way is to immerse yourself in others’ creative outcomes. Surround yourself in works that have already been done, by yourself or by others. Take a trip to an art gallery or museum. Go to the library or a book store and peruse all sorts of books. Go to a concert. Listen to music that you really enjoy or try out some new type of music. Dance around the house to music that you love. Read magazines or books that have lots of visually pleasing images. Get yourself in touch with any creative process.
Take a walk to view your surroundings looking at ways to incorporate what you see into new forms. Observe what is around you with a wonder and artistic eye. Take segments of common things and see if they can be made into motifs or patterns. Observe moments that can tell a story. One of my favourite techniques is to take a notebook and go to a coffee shop. With my cup of coffee and pen and paper, I observe, make sketches and write observations. I can then go home and conjure up new projects from those seeds of ideas.
I have found too that reading biographies of other creative people can be inspiring. You can also learn how they overcame certain difficulties or what their processes were. Reading Georgia O’Keeffe’s biography inspired me to create three new fabric pieces that utilized her concepts of art. The biography of architect Frank Lloyd Wright inspired me to create some pieces that focused on motifs of nature. When experiencing these activities, keep your mind open for new sparks of perceiving ordinary things in a little bit different way.
Another way of priming the pump is by being around other creative people. Sometimes the energy generated by like-thinking people can inspire you, stretch your imagination and take you into new areas of creativity that you might not generate on your own. This community of creativity has been borne out many times throughout history as we have seen many styles of art emerging from groups of artists coming together to pool their creative resources. The combination of other minds can be the ‘primer’ that is needed to get things flowing.
An important thing about priming your pump is what is going on in your head! This is a time to open up for possibilities. This is about not stressing; it is about relaxing and being in the bliss of creating. Remember, creativity is ALL practice. Examine what thoughts you are having when you are getting ready to prime the creative pump. Are they helpful or unhelpful?

Here are some examples of unhelpful thoughts: I can’t do that kind of painting; his writing is so much better than mine; everyone would laugh if I tried to do that; mine wouldn't as good as Frank’s piece; I’m wasting my time trying to be that good.
Who the heck would do anything thinking like that? And where is the space to be inspired?
Here are some helpful ways to approach your priming: what new ways can I look at this idea; how open can I be to new ideas; what if…?; practice is important after inspiration but today I’m just here for inspiration; no preconceived notions, just openness; perfection is a myth that obscures true beauty.
Don’t engage in ‘yeah, buts’. Those are the discounting phrases that combine ‘yeah’ with ‘but’: ‘yeah, that’s really nice but I can’t paint like that’ or ‘yeah, that’s a great piece of music but I could never write anything like that.’ Going into priming with a quantitative and qualitative mindset won’t leave you open to new ideas. Check yourself when you hear those phrases coming up. Go into priming with an open mind—you have no idea what you might discover when you’re open. It may be a seed that you’ll grow later, but the seed has to be gathered in the first place for it to be planted at any time.
Remember though, priming the pump is not just about ‘thinking’; it's also about ‘doing’. So, get out there and get the creativity flowing!