Since I teach writing to art students, we talk a lot about process. It’s a subject I could discuss all day: how we work, why we work, what we do when we hit a block. In fact, until recently I taught an essay about analyzing an artistic process (a task very few students could effectively manage; I think it takes a long time to understand process, let alone analyze it and write about it). So this fall, I’ve changed things up: instead of analyzing a process, we’re doing an art experiment.
Over the next three weeks,” I told my students, “you will undertake an experiment in your art-making, artistic approach, or creativity.
After an initial grumbling period, my students came up with all kinds of interesting ideas. A photographer who always uses a DLSR camera decided to try out old-fashioned film. An animation student who works in 3D tried out 2D. A student who limits herself to one cup of coffee before she starts work decided to drink three instead (she couldn’t sleep that night, she reported). Some students had trouble separating process from product; but then, who doesn’t?
Last night as I was falling asleep I started imagining different kinds of creative experiments I might undertake. And I think only good things could happen. Someone told me recently that when you feel stuck creatively it’s because you’re trying to approach something from the same angle again, and again, and again. Couldn’t a good old-fashioned experiment be a great way to approach something from a new angle?
Here, readers, are some of the experiments I thought to undertake.
1. Keep a dream journal. A notebook by the bed, in which to record the wacky and the wonderful and, sometimes, the scary things that come to me in dreams (last night I helped my brother cover up a murder, plus taught in a classroom full of toppling filing cabinets).
2. Table the writing for a week, and pick up a paintbrush or a camera instead. I am a terrible visual artist, but nonetheless I fantasize about art-making all the time. Sometimes I think one of the best things I could do for my creativity would be to explore totally different creative outlets (I recently sewed a tiger costume, if that counts).
3. Record my son. From the heart-rending (“I don’t want to get bigger–can you please smash ‘big’?”) to the not-nice (“I’m going to pee on you if you tell me that again!”), the language of three-year-olds is…raw. And unpolished. Listening to someone negotiate language for the first time–and taking better notes than I usually do–could be a great source of inspiration.
What kinds of experiments would you undertake, readers?
Also check out these great articles on creativity and creative experiments: