The Working Theory


I don’t really have a Unified Theory on Creativity.  On the whole, I probably have more questions about it than I have answers.  But, I do have a few theorems, and I'm going to call them my Working Theory on Creativity.

  1. I must create.

  2. When I create, I feel more creative.

  3. Creativity won’t answer to demands, but it may accept an invitation.

  4. Finishing is harder than beginning, but it’s just as critical.

I've been tossing these around in my head lately, because my creating has felt a little off.  An itchy, insatiable feeling has been creeping up when I work in my studio.  Or, more accurately, when I'm not working in my studio.  And, that, I think is the problem.  Too little studio time, and used in the wrong ways.  So, today, I'm writing myself a exposition on the first and last of my theorems, because I think that's where my problem rests.

I Must Create

This is what I know: I must create.  It is engrained deep into the fibers of my very being.  I make to solve problems and I make just for the utter joy of creating.  I make for a million reasons I may never be able to name.  But, I do know, that I must make.

When I don’t create for some time, my ideas begin to wither.  If they stay inside of me, not honored, they canker.  It’s not just that an idea dies, but also something inside me starts to rot.  An unused creative spark isn’t only wasted, it actually becomes toxic to my soul.  

To be clear, I don’t have to act on every creative impulse.  Every idea that wanders into my head isn’t worth chasing.  But, I do need to be actively pursuing some creative impulse.  


Finishing Is Harder than Beginning, but It’s Just as Critical

It's so easy to begin.  The thrill of creating is highest at the beginning.  The unknown of a new project is a siren song for me.  I love tearing into those first questions, and watching it unfold.  It’s addicting, this beginning.  

But, it’s short lived.  As the adrenaline rush drops off, I find myself deep in the completing phase of making.  Line after line of quilting.  Edit after edit of writing.  Stroke after meticulous stroke of painting.

It is the tedious part, but it is also critical.  To be a happy maker, I need to finish.  If I give into the constant pull of the next project, I feel dissipated and lackluster.  Beginning is the rush of a new romance, and completing is the persistence of a committed relationship.

It’s in the perseverance that I show my creativity that it can trust me with new ideas.  It is in the sticking with a piece while it descends from those first moments of promise into something chaotic and messy.  It is in the tenacity to keep at it, when it’s boring and repetitive, and feels never ending.  Something important happens in that consistency.  Yes, a thing gets finished.  But, also, I come to trust myself a little more. 

I’ll add this one caveat to my second theorem: Not everything needs to be finished.  Some ideas I need to let go.  Some projects I need to abandon.  This all works fine as long as I take an intentional step forward.  It’s leaving it in stasis that’s dangerous.  It's dangerous to my creativity, and to my peace.


It occurs to me, that the solution to my increasing feeling of unease is simply to make.  Get into this pile of Unfinished that's plaguing me.  Put my hands back to use.  That's all it takes, really.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go make something.