As I started exploring this topic of boredom & the creative life deeper by polling my Twitter friends, some very interesting trends popped out. I’ve covered a few already – but Kirsty Hall, an artist, purveyor of mad obsessive projects, and internet hand holder, let me know that boredom is part of her creative process.
The not so fun part.
And I completely relate. There is a part in creating anything of great worth that is quite boring. Stopping once you get there is what causes promising mediocrity. Pushing through that lack of interest is what creates something truly remarkable.
So I asked Kirsty to elaborate on her types of creative boredom. Here’s what she had to say:
The first phase is the ‘You Know What Would Be Really Good’ stage.
This is the boredom I get when I’m between projects and approaching the end of the ‘cooking ideas’ stage. I know that I’m ready to move onto the next project when I start hatching up crazy household plans. When my family find me randomly painting walls without warning or coming up with grandiose gardening schemes, they’ve learnt to order me back into the studio before I can cause too much mayhem. Otherwise I start saying things like, ‘we must strip this hideous wallpaper off RIGHT NOW!’ But then a couple of days later, I’ve had my latest art idea and the wall is left abandoned and left unfinished for several years.
It’s sort of like nesting when you’re pregnant. Needless to say, my poor family live in fear of the phrase, ‘you know what would be really good…’
The second sort of creative boredom is the ‘It’s All Shit’ stage.
This is when I’m working on a project and I hit the mental equivalent of a patch of black ice. I will suddenly be so bored and infuriated with my own work that I could just about scream.
It feels like the sort of tension you get before a thunderstorm and I’ll often be in a vile mood for a day or two. This is a sign of one of two things. Either the thing I’m working on really is rubbish OR I’m about to have a huge breakthrough with it.
I usually push through these patches because I’ve learnt that they’re a prelude to that leap in understanding or a new way forward with the idea. However, if I go into the studio and everything I touch turns to shit and I start wanting to throw things, I take a mental health day because I’ve learnt that it’s pointless trying to work on those particular days. Fortunately they’re very rare.
The third kind of creative boredom is the ‘Kill Me Now’ stage.
Because I make repetitive, process based sculptures that take months or even years to complete, there are moments when I would rather bang my head repeatedly against the wall instead of sewing one more bloody sequin on an apron.
This is when I start thinking, ‘why did I start this bloody stupid project?’. Because my process is so slow, I’ll usually hit it several times during the creation of one of my mad, obsessive projects. When it strikes, I switch gears – so I’ll take a break and do some gardening, drawing, knitting or reading for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks. I’ve usually got another art project on the back burner that I can pick up and of course, there’s always administration to catch up on, so the time is never wasted.
Of course, the corollary to these episodes of boredom is that I have whole stretches of time where I’m deeply, madly and passionately in love with what I’m working on and those come and go too. I think of my projects as being a bit like a marriage – it starts out all passion and joy but you go through rough patches and then the love deepens.
….. Exactly. Bottom line, working through boredom, lack of enthusiasm, even apathy is part of the creative process. Not because we need to beat boredom to create but because we have to employ boredom to create our best work.
Tomorrow, I’ll be wrapping up this series, exploring how to battle feelings of listlessness – often stemming from having too much to do as opposed to too little – when we don’t want or need them.
About Kirsty Hall
Kirsty Hall is an artist & purveyor of mad obsessive projects who blogs about art & chickens. She also runs an online business called SOS For Artists that helps creative people rock the internet. (image above by Kirsty)