Five Minute Creation: Make your Mark
Mark making basics
I spent some time pondering what I could write about this week that would cover being creative. I really need to sit down and brainstorm a list of possible post ideas, and maybe that will be my task for this week – there is nothing quite like mind-mapping ideas, and seeing how one idea can flow into the next and open up further ideas. While I pondered all of this, it hit me that a lot of people worry about the right way to get started when it comes to creating something new.
By far the easiest way for me to start, is to pick up a pen or a pencil along with a sheet of paper. But that’s usually the point at which that I become more than a little bit terrified. A blank sheet or paper, that big white empty page staring back at me? Sneering at me, in a mocking way: “how can you – YOU Eve, – possibly have anything to write or draw that will improve upon my pristine blankness?” It scares me. I have some beautiful notebooks and sketchbooks which have remained untouched for years – one in particular was a gift from a fellow student at Wimbledon College of Art back in 2008. That is eight years of nothing happening within that beautiful leather bound book. Maybe someday soon, I’ll find the courage to get cracking on it..
The First Mark in Words
Anyhow, when it comes to making your first mark on a clean blank page, you really have two options; will you write or draw? If the former, write a word. It can be anything. Take a look around you, what do you see? What do you hear? What are you feeling? Find a word, write it down, close your eyes, and focus on that word.
For this example, I wrote the word cathedral down as I just so happened to be sat upon a bench outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Starting at that one word, others clamoured around in my head, jostling to be the next word that I would write down. And a lot of writers advocate this: word vomit on the page, for however long you need, before trying to write anything good. Get the crap out first they say. So I took a moment, and listened. To those pesky words, but also the sounds I could hear around me. I closed my eyes to better focus. Sounds that were familiar. Sounds that were recognisable. Sounds that were unique to that moment in time. They all became amplified while I sat there with my eyes closed, the sun burning through my eyelids.
I opened my eyes, stared at my page and wrote down everything that I had just thought, heard and seen. It was a very short paragraph, but it filled the space on that hopelessly white page and egged me onwards to more.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Cathedral. Bells of St Paul’s ringing. Skateboards zipping from one bench to another, their wheels crackling over the pavement slabs. A sneeze. Loud and emphatic, cutting across the hot, sunny stillness, making the pigeons nearby take flight. I wonder at this space, this place. Tucked away, a place for all to sit, ponder and enjoy the City of London.
The First Visual Mark
Having felt mildly successful with my first attempt I switched to the second idea, image. It is important for me to not feel too rigid. I have a habit of drawing careful tiny lines to make myself feel in control of the outcome, but this ends up stifling my style, so I have worked out a mark that is loose, fluid and allows me to have a slight control. Its essentially two scribbled M’s overlaid without break. Sounds scary? Stupid? It is neither, I promise!
I took the very same orange pen that I had used to write my paragraph about St Paul’s and I placed it upon that glaring white piece of paper. I made a few of my ‘M’ squiggles in the upper section of my page, and after looking up at the scene in front of me, I decided they would be trees. Beneath the tree’s branches and leaves where trunks, benches, an old lady sat enjoying the sunshine. All this I scribbled down, using a variety of lose marks so as not to feel too precious about the work.
You see, this has always been my downfall. Feeling precious about my work. Feeling that whatever I produce has to be perfect. And the reality is, that it never will be, for any of us. We are all human, and we all have expectations that we set for ourselves, and generally, we set these expectations ridiculously high so that we have no choice but to fail. And that is mostly why as youngsters we give up on creative activities, because a school teacher tells us it’s wrong, or our parents laugh at our offering or a friend rips it up before dropping it carelessly in the bin.
Don’t Listen to the Negativity – at Least Not Yet
There is always someone, somewhere, who will put down your creative endeavours, and often without realising the trauma this has caused. After finishing my fashion degree, it took me two years before I could bring myself to pick up a pencil and just draw for the fun of it. That is the outcome of bad teaching; ripping someone’s abilities apart without putting them back together with the skills and confidence they should have. And when that happens, we feel devastated. But now that we are adults, living life as we do, going to work, sorting out the bills, caring for our families; where is the time to relax, have fun and just enjoy creating something?
A Mark Making Challenge
So here I am today saying: Lets do this! Let’s open our day-to-day lives to being more creative. I challenge you. To find a pen, a pencil, a piece of paper. Find five minutes for yourself today, and create a paragraph, or an image. Or even both. You don’t ever have to read it back. You’re not expected to hang it on your wall or post it to Facebook. But, imagine that feeling you’ll have, deep inside, that you did it. You took your creative courage in your own hands and enjoyed it for five minutes. Of course, if you’re feeling REALLY SUPER courageous, send them to me. firstname.lastname@example.org – and if you’re feeling insanely courageous? Give me permission to add them to this post so others can see them too!
Til next week…