Friday, October 12, 2007

Life On The Creative Edge

For as long as I can remember, I have lived the creative life - from the four year old poet whose masterpieces have remained tucked away safely in my baby book, to the artist who at seven or eight took brush to canvas with the help of my grandfather (the real artist), to the performing musician who spent many hours practicing the clarinet and piano, to the composer who wrote the sounds that carried friends to the altar, to the creative soul whose life now is a mish-mash of writing, photography, music and knitting. Walking the path of creativity is challenging, fulfilling, frustrating, heartbreaking, exhilarating, magical, terrifying, amazing . . .

Every human being is born with a spark of the Creator that resides within. For some of us, this spark ignites a fire that is almost impossible to extinguish. For others, the creative coals may smoulder for a lifetime without ever bursting into flames. No mater how the creative spark manifests itself, we each have a responsibility to tend it. Just like we can't leave a burning campfire unsupervised, neither can we leave the fire of creativity to burn unattended..

My earliest recollection of my own creative spirit is from kindergarten when I decided to write poetry. The meager little rhyme that I wrote was enough to alert the teacher to the fact that perhaps there was something there that she should nurtured. During that school year, she collected all of my literary gems. On the last day of school, she gave me a typed anthology of my verse. That was enough of an incentive to keep me writing. (So, those of you who have read the poetry that I have posted on this blog and wondered why I thought it was a good idea can blame Mrs. Daily. It is all her fault.)

During that same year, I began taking piano lessons. I'm not sure if I exhibited musical abilities or if I was taking piano lessons because that guaranteed my mom at least thirty minutes of peace and quiet each day while I practiced. Whatever the reason, music was the fire that was kindled inside me. It consumed nearly every minute of my life for about twenty five years. Though I guess that technically by profession I am a musician, right now I enjoy several other creative outlets as well.

For me, photography is just plain fun, probably because I can partake without the burden of expectations placed on me by myself or others. Writing is challenging. Expression through the written word demands that I bare my true self since I prefer to write non-fiction. I am not creative enough for fiction. Knitting is both fun and challenging. I have reached a level of competence that allows me to pick up most patterns written by other people and make a fairly accurate go of it. The fun comes in choosing colors and making, usually minor, changes to make it my own. Creating designs and patterns of my own is more challenging.

I have never been very good at forced creativity. I really do have to wait for a visit from the muse. This is probably why I can't make a living as "an artist". Whether it be music, writing, photography, or knitting, something inside me has to be moved to create. This makes coming up with the designs that I am responsible for in Spirit of Knitting a scary proposition sometimes. As a composer, I am forever asking myself, "Does that melody or progression sound like something else?" And as a knitter, "Have I seen that somewhere else?"

We all grow by expanding our knowledge base. It is mandatory that musicians listen to the works of other musicians, that painters study the masterpieces of other artists, and that knitters study the work of other knitters. In each of these instances, we run the risk of experience and expression co-mingling. In other words, something we thought was our own idea actually belongs to someone else. I am not talking about blatant copying or plagiarism, but rather experiences that result in the same means of expression by different people.

BK, Alissa, and I plan the projects for each issue of Spirit of Knitting at least a year in advance. This gives us plenty of time to perfect our ideas and designs. Unfortunately, it also gives others a big window through which to beat us to the punch. Such was the case today. Like I said, studying the work of other artists in our field is absolutely essential to furthering our own creative spirits. So, I make an effort to at least look at, if not buy, any new knitting books that I can. The other night I had a date with the "1 click" button on which resulted in the purchase of two new knitting books. At this point, only one has come, but that is enough. I was thumbing through the great designs in Mags Kandis' book Folk Style when all of the sudden I was stopped dead in my tracks. There on the page staring straight back at me was the exact design that I am working on for the January issue of Spirit of Knitting! That issue of our newsletter is all about knitting socks and other foot coverings. I thought (over a year ago!) that I would design a child's felted Wellie that would then be embellished with needle felting. Mags Kandis had the same idea, and hers made it to press first. So, I am heading back to the drawing board. That part is a little frustrating though I guess there is some consolation in knowing that at least someone thought it was a good idea. If only I had gotten there first . . .Such is the way in the creative life.