The creative leak

Yesterday a thought blasted like a horn through my foggy mind as I stood somewhere gaping at my phone and thumbing through pics and info:

This phone is making me stupid!

Then, softer, clearer: This behaviour is making me stupid.

Straight away I considered an extended break from teh socialz, particularly FB. But I am reluctant, because there are upsides to the place. I am glad to have excellent friends there. They post good links and quality lolz.

Then today I spotted this headline in a friend’s feed:

Drowning in a Sea of Information: A personal account and analysis of information overload

and immediately clicked because that’s what I mean. Too much information.

I wasn’t surprised to find that others are already considering our stupefying online behaviour. Digital information is affecting our thinking, and our eyes scan the printed page differently than a screen.

Spending so much time online (TEN! HOURS! A! DAY! according to this piece I flitted past) also has the potential to drain the well of creativity or certainly suck up a sizeable portion of time that could otherwise go to creative pursuits or the very important time doing nothing.

Creative thought happens when I’m in the moment (as they say), and rarely when I’m connected to a gadget. In other words, feeding your head (as Lewis Carroll didn’t quite say, but Grace Slick did) is not so much about reading every.single.thing. that you can get your eyes on, but about giving your mind time to wander.

Personally, I don’t feel I can concentrate the way I used to. I find it harder to sit still and focus for long periods of time. Sometimes, reading a book, I catch myself skimming left-hand pages and reading right-hand pages.

But I don’t think the phone has killed my creativity (yet), and I’m not swamped (yet) by idea debt…my lifelong need to draw has resurfaced lately and I’m happy to give it as much free time as I can. But that resurfacing could be a warning sign from deep in the brain: fix the creative leak. Feed your head.

There’s a site to help with that! I could take two minutes and start now.

Then, perhaps it’s time to consider a different approach to connected life.




The Salty River

I love a bit of visual metaphor—it’s one of the unique narrative possibilities open to the comics artist.  But it’s surprisingly rare. Lots of graphic novels, while well-drawn, read like illustrated scripts. Entertaining, but not making the most of the medium. 
But last week, I picked up The Salty River, an autobiography by German artist Jan Bauer, and it’s been a delight to read. Every panel, every page, is beautifully designed, and the images do things words alone can’t do to expand the story’s emotional boundaries.
Learn more at Twelve Panels Press (where you can find this preview image and more).

Page 5 from graphic novel The Salty River

Jan Bauer’s autobiographical graphic novel is about his trek through outback Australia in search of solitude

What’s hidden, what’s revealed

A true/imaginary story (Vault Piece No. 2, uncovered in the Great Office Cleanup of 2014) was the first piece I did on a page from a book.


I was playing around with acrylic paints, polymer image transfer, embroidery, and drawing (as always), and discovered my interest in playing with meaning by covering most of the words on the page and selecting a few to remain. (Austin Kleon does a lot of this. You should check him out.)

They’re pretty far removed from whatever the page used to say. I liked letting the new phrases influence what I drew.

Taking time and making time

How many of us blame our lack of time for our lack of creative output?

Drawing of house behind fence in rainy weather

I started this drawing last week while waiting under a café awning for a rainstorm to break. I chipped away at it bit by bit during the week, and finished it today during my lunchbreak.

In a few minutes here and there, I got something accomplished. Now I have to remind myself: large projects can be tackled this way!

In her wonderful book about writing, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott quotes EL Doctorow:

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

And I agree with Anne when she continues: “This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.” If we refuse to start making things for lack of time, nothing gets done at all.

If you’re still stuck for time, here are some helpful ideas from the also wonderful website Tiny Buddha: 10 Tips to Nurture Your Creative Life: Making Time and Space.