Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Guest Post: Part of the Process




Yesterday I went to the Brighton Bloggers' Bash, a meet-up arranged for local bloggers to get together at Super+Super HQ, make contacts and discuss their blogging hobby/job. I met some nice people including a lovely lady who doesn't currently have a blog, but is a prolific sewer and would love to start a sewing blog (having had a couple of false blogging starts in the past). However, she feels something was creating a barrier, and she with so many sewing bloggers out there she might struggle to find a unique voice and she is also in awe of many of the writers of the most popular blogs. 

This morning I chatted with Patty over coffee about this lady's dilemma. He had some (typically) insightful things to say on the subject, so I asked him to write a guest post for my blog to share them with y'all. Check it out peops, this is the good shit...

One of the most common reasons people give preventing them from doing something creative is that it has already been done. Lots of people are interested in doing something such as making garments, starting a new blog or any kind of creative activity. Many people feel daunted by the plethora of existing blogs and huge range of existing makers in any given field. It is as if there should only be a certain number of people in any creative field, as if it were a party in a small house and could get too crowded.

I believe this is a manifestation of a fundamental misunderstanding of what creative activity is. This misunderstanding is deeply rooted in our culture. We learn it at school and through the media. We are taught that creativity is the expression of a higher ideal in a finished object of great beauty and skilled execution. This is wrong in approximately fifteen different ways. It is complex but basically it comes down to perception of value.

In our society value resides in finished products. Art is one category of the production of products. Craft is another. We look with lust and desire at finished products and believe they are created by specialists using talents beyond our mortal capacity to understand. We are thereby separated from our own creative power which is what makes us depend on shopping to satisfy all our psycho-spiritual needs.  

From outside the house party of creative practice looking in we see only finished products. We mistake the product for the practice. We are excited by what is happening but like Peter Pan we find we cannot fly in through the window ultimately because of our own self limiting beliefs. It’s important to understand that EVERYBODY feels this. Even those who appear to be such ‘natural’ creators, those that have identified themselves as ‘creatives’ early in life have had some crucial intervention, some teacher or parent who told them they had talent (thanks Mrs Cheeseman) so in a way they are beholden to the same false idea as all the rest anyway.

Of course praise is not enough. It will get you through the door but you won’t stay if you don’t find the secret, and the secret is process.

The only difference between the maker and the aspiring maker is that the maker realises that the process is everything, the final product is merely an effect of the process.

Process is everything. Originality is a fetish that only makes sense in terms of intellectual property law. Forget about originality. Even if you took an idea verbatim from somebody else, your process of making it would be unique, the journey you took would be of value to you and by extension to those around you. This is especially evident in craft where similar patterns produce uniqueness and process is celebrated, where bloggers share the process of creating and pontificate on how it changes them and their lives. This is what ‘Art’ wishes it was.

The value is in the process and the finished product is a continuation of that process, affecting the lives of others, that scarf you made for your dad lives on in the process of his life. Value itself is a living process not to be confined to a number or a thing.

We are conditioned to understand the final product as the container of quality. In order to believe this we have to believe that each category of products is produced by specialisms we cannot comprehend. This is where ‘talent’ comes in. 




Reinforced by the talent shows that now dominate our TV screens the biggest of all lies is talent. The very idea that some tiny percentage of people ‘own’ creativity by some genetic twist of fate is laughable. There are no ‘creative people’. Creativity is our species defining characteristic. We all need to use it, it is a psychological prerequisite for a happy life.

Anything can be learned by anyone.

So don’t stand outside the party waiting for an invitation. Don’t be confused by the dazzling heights that other bloggers and makers have achieved, look at the processes they are engaged with. Each process is unique, each one fills a vital gap in that person’s life, without this deeper engagement they would not be able to continue the work for years and years.

Success, slick production values, money, attention, these are all byproducts of a process of self discovery that will last a lifetime. And they may never come. If the process is right for you it won’t even matter anymore. Any stage of that process is as essential as any other. That includes the first six months however awkward and frustrating they may be.

More than anything else consider this: we are in a big phase of change, we are renegotiating our cultural values and we need everybody to join in the debate. This includes you. We need your unique process, we need your unique contribution. Making stuff is cultural production. Nothing is trivial.

Now does the house party still look full to you? Ring the bell then go through the door.

It’s all part of the process.

35 comments:

Clare said...

This post is freaking great, and so true. I recently read 'The subversive stitch' (a feminist history of embroidery which everyone should read because it's amazing) and until I did, hadn't really grasped just how recent the idea of Artists, these uniquely creative, special, (usually male) individuals, is. 'Creativity is our species defining characteristic': I think I need that on a T-shirt.

katherine h said...

A great essay!

It took me a long time to realise that creative people did not just pluck ideas out of the air. I always went through the process, but never considered myself creative, because I was just building on previous ideas, be they mine own, or the ideas of others. So I am always surprised when I hear people describe me as a creative person. In fact, I am an analytical and logical person. It is only the final product that looks creative to someone who has not seen everything that has come before.

So I agree that the notion of "creativity" as some sort of genetic trait is a misnomer. Creativity is just taking an area of interest, and developing the ideas in that field of interest. "Creative types" often hang about in groups because they are learning and building on the ideas of those around them, as a collective.

Vicki Kate said...

That is so brilliantly explained, I don't think I could have put it so eloquently or clearly. I'm printing it out and putting it above my machine. I salute you Patty!

Donna said...

Thanks for this!

Rachel H said...

Oh wow this is the most encouraging read. I have literally just started my sewing blog. Literally yesterday! And I've been feeling anxious about all the mistakes I make when I sew and whether or not I feel brave to document them! But reading this reminded me of why I want to start blogging. The process is the most important thing and is the thing that makes me happy when I make. 9 times out of 10 I'm not all that happy with the finished item I create anyway, but I always learn something through the process of making. Long live trial and error!!

wendy said...

Like the lady you met at your meet-up, I don't blog - but regularly wish I could take that first step. Reading Patty's words actually made me well up!
I'm going to read this over and see where that leads :)

Thanks so much for posting this, it might be the big push I needed.

Tania said...

Mindblowing! Reading this post is the perfect way to start the day. Zoe, you are one lucky lady to be with such an intelligent, insightful guy.

Joanne said...

Great post! I'm going to send this to a lovely lady I've been conversing with by email who'd also like to start a blog but just doesn't know how to get started in her head. Thanks Patty!

Far said...

Great great essay! Thank you both!

dottiedoodle said...

This is really interesting, thank you. The best advice I've been given is if you are worried/scared about doing something, just give it a go for fifteen minutes. It's amazing how much you can achieve, and often don't want to stop when the time is up.

didyoumakethat said...

This is a truly great post, Zoe. I'd like to really reiterate the statement 'Forget about originality'. As someone who's worked in children's publishing for over 20 years, I know for sure that there's no such thing as a new idea. Someone will already have written a version of your story and had it published. Does that mean that children's publishers stop commissioning books about secret passages or hairy monsters or mysteries to be solved or missing parents? Of course not! It all adds to the richness of the soup. Just look at all the sewing bloggers who are inspired by each other, making a variation on a variation on a variation. That's superb! Don't get hung up on what's gone before, just do what you want and care about what you're doing. I also agree that the overcrowded market argument is a good strategy for not taking the scary step of getting involved in the first place. Baby steps, baby steps... It's all about the journey. Patty is a very wise man!

Jacq C said...

Oh wow, that actually made me cry - what an insightful man he is. I've thought about blogging lots of times but am so in awe of those already out there that I'm not sure I have anything to contribute. I've always made things but went to a old-fashioned academic focused school and creativity was measured by your ability to draw (for which we were given no instruction so there was a reliance on inate talent). I remember being told at 11 that I wasn't creative so that was it, game over, Latin and sciences for me. Even though I've carried on making stuff I guess, deep down, I've never really believed I was actually any good, just kept going because I enjoy it and find it relaxing.
I love the '15 minutes' comment above, a great way to think about trying something new.
Thank you :)

snippa said...

Zoe, you're right - that's seriously good shit! Well said Patty.

Some things take time and that's OK - creativity is therapy.

Sølvi said...

Great post!

I attended a talk on creative processes a while back, and what most of the participants (a classical composer, a pianist/brain scientist and a music critic) seemed to agree on, was that good quality creative products (I'll call it that in lack of a better word) comes through large quantities of hard work.

I am a music professional, and I know that to reach "creative freedom" on stage, a LOT of work is required prior to a gig. Not just the weeks before, but years of fine tuning skills. And I will emphase the importans of developing skills and craftmanship, not talent and creativity as something given to a few. I believe that creativity is a craft that can be learned just as well as bound buttonholes or whatnot.

I guess what I'm trying to say to anyone who is scared of joining the so-called creative businesses: go for it! Practise makes perfect, both in writing, sewing and everything else!

Lenora Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roobeedoo said...

This is wonderful empowering stuff! "Originality is a fetish which has no place outside of intellectural property law"?! LOVE THAT!

Molly said...

That was great! I paint and sew, have forever, just because my mom didn't care what the end product was she was proud that I had made something, and would display it even if I thought it was ugly. People have always called me "talented" I don't think so. My response is "if you tried you could do it too." I do think I'm slightly more skilled at some creative things now, but only because I've done them for fun for 20 plus years (my whole life, as long as I was mobile!)

K.Line said...

This is utterly apt and so beautifully articulated. Thank you for posting this!

Minnado said...

Love this - it chimes in with me as well in relation to how childrens' art and craft projects are presented. #Often in school. on tv and in books or blogs it is all about the final project, often beyond kids' abilities, instead of focusing on the creative process. I think this provides the foundation for adults being fixated on the end product and disillusioned with their own skills or percieved lack of skills.

Sarah said...

This definitely hits home. A good reminder that the process is part of the fun and why I love crafting so much. Thanks.

ScarletteOTara said...

Great words from Mr So Zo!* So very inspiring

*When you call Patty Mr So Zo it always makes me think Keyser Soze, the mega baddie from Usual Suspects!

ScarletteOTara said...

@ Clare - The Subversive Stitch sounds great, will trawl eBay for a copy. Anyone got any other good feminism/craft book recommendations while I'm at it? x

Christina said...

Thank you so much, this is so incredibly well put that I just bookmarked this post for times when I need encouragement.

Btw, cultural belief in Germany is: if it's beautiful, useful or entertaining, it isn't really art. (Exeptions are being made for works that are at least 100 years old.) I always hated this.

Jo Campbell said...

I so needed to hear this today. I have an application in for a degree course in Fine Art Textiles and, while waiting to hear if I have an interview, I've been somewhat nervous about whether I would get a place. Today I went to see the local City and Guilds students' Textiles Exhibition, which was so amazing I really started to doubt myself. I think that I too need to print this out and keep it somewhere close at hand to remind myself why I want to create. Thanks Patty and Zoe.

Also, for Scarlette, I can recommend Women's Work by Elizabeth W Barber.

Suze said...

Well, HELLS! Given that I AM that lady who spoke to you on Saturday, naturally this has me all of a fluster!

If Patty has a fanclub, I would very much like to join it. If he doesn't, he damn well should. It could have stickers and newsletters and everything.

Thank you so very much for all the encouragement on Saturday - between you and Patty and all the lovely ladies at the Bash, I have an awful lot of food for thought. This really does hit home...

Hells... Coming soon to a blog near you, I hope!

Rusia i Lusia said...

great . ♥

Crab said...

I need to frame this. This is so beautifully said. I don't often re-read blog posts, but this is one that I'd like to return to often. Thank you, Patty and Zoe!

Tilly said...

Fantastic post, Pat! It always upsets me when I hear someone say that they could never make their own clothes, that they're just not creative, as if there are certain people with talent and others who are just made to consume things that other people have made. If we all made things - no matter how rubbish they turn out - the world would be a better place.

(Zoe, I'll reply to your email properly tomorrow, I've had a long day and my bed is beckoning! xx)

StephC said...

Excellent! Thank you for writing this. I have a similar thing I tell beginners in classes... The sewing well isn't some special gift that fairies bequeathed me in my cradle. That it's a process, it's a skill that can be honed over time, it's practice and tenacity. In just a couple generations, humans became divorced from working with their hands in a creative way, and it's really interesting to show people that it's natural to do these things... Not magical.

Yvonne said...

Great post! Very Encouraging. For me the biggest problem in starting a blog itself was that my expectations in a blog are at such a high level. I read so much wonderful blogs both well designed and written. Posting my not so perfect garments wasn't my problem, it was the blogging itself. I got a really kick in the ass by your guest post Patty. Today I started my blog. Not perfect, but a start and it feels really good to overcome this wall that kept me away from just trying it out. Thanks.

Tors said...

Patty is awesome! Spot on!

Melanie said...

I'm giving an artist talk on a similar theme tomorrow and I am glad I found this post! Thank you.

Uta said...

Thank you, Patty, for putting this in words! I understood this when I had children. Maybe I didn't feel "good", or original, or talented enough, but by golly, I wasn't going to let my children grow up thinking they can't do everything (and I don't mean in the sense of "everyone can be a doctor", but everybody can sing, dance, paint, sew, write a book, do whatever is needed to make life full and liveable). So now I have to do everything, too. And, of course, I, too, "can".

Amy said...

What a fab post. This should be on the school curriculum somewhere. Yay for a fresh breath of creativity!

Sara said...

"if you took an idea verbatim from somebody else, your process of making it would be unique, .... the value is in the process."

Thank you :) I've come from a background of photography enthusiasts where copyright is a dominant theme, to the point where I now see a lot of beautiful things (photos & sewing) that I would love to try myself but have felt as if this would be breaking some kind of ethics code.

This post has started some cogs turning in the back of my mind somewhere, something to dwell on & work up the courage to start sewing I think! Thank you :)

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