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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Make Useful Stuff

Following up from the last post about how Creative Output must = Material Input, I managed to do a few more little projects with my junk, er, creative supplies. I happily cut and pasted to make some more art journal pages to my satisfaction. Then I wondered why did some of these make me feel so contented? Well, one reason of course is that I was starting to make some pages which I felt happy looking at. I liked the messages that I was writing and I liked the way it turned out so nicely.

This brought me to another thought, that when we make something creative, we should also

MAKE USEFUL STUFF

Now, some would interpret this as "It has to serve a practical purpose" but my definition is a bit wider than that. How would you know if something is useful? Ask yourself the following:

👍 Is what you made useful? Does it help you to do something or achieve a goal? 
One example of this would be the pen holders I made from old film cans. I needed something to hold small pens and the holders fit that purpose perfectly. It helped me to achieve the goals of organizing my desk, and being creative.



👍 Does it make you feel good, or 'spark joy' like what Marie Kondo describes in her book? Here as examples are 2 old art journal pages I did. They don't have any practical purpose. They don't act as storage, they're too big to use as bookmarks and too light as paperweights. I can't even write on them because they're no longer blank. Yet when I look at them, they remind me of important messages that I should carry through life. One is the obvious message that they carry and the other is that I am capable of making beautiful pieces if I just try. Certainly, when I look at them, they 'spark joy' in me. 


👍 Does it teach you something? Do you learn something out of it? This is one of my first attempts with watercolour painting:  
You can tell it's not good at all and you find any redeeming feature in it, you are a good, kind friend and I thank you. By all appearances, this particular painting does not serve any practical purpose. There's no inspirational message and in fact, it's kind of gloomy. Plus the technique really sucks.

But it did lead on to a later piece, which is this:
This is still not a fine piece of art but isn't it miles above the first in technique? That's the useful purpose of the first piece, not as a piece of art on its own, but as a stepping stone to a better piece. 

It was hard to grasp that some of the uglier stuff I did early on could serve any useful purpose at all. At times, it seemed impossible with the skills I had then that I could produce anything marginally useful. The key for me was not to dismiss my early attempts as proof that I totally sucked, but to see them as small steps to a bigger thing. Then it was easier to continue, because I saw myself en route to bigger things. 

This can be hard. Especially when you are faced with the shrapnel of all your failed attempts and a trash bin full of paper, the inspirational quotations about learning 99 ways how not to build a light bulb seem pretty shallow. Be kind to yourself and accept your own shortfalls and failures. Even if you don't churn out anything remotely useful or beautiful at the end of your life, you still would have learnt something you didn't before. That also makes it useful. 😉

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Creative Output must equal Material Input

Today, I started on one of my Big Hairy Audacious Goals, which was to clear and organize the journals on my table. This was an important and urgent goal, because

1. They were a disaster waiting to happen. 
The journals were in a precarious pile on the table and every time someone breathed near them, an avalanche occurred.
2. They were not in a convenient location. 
I wanted them arranged in a more accessible way that made sense for me. They were arranged in a huge stack on top of one another, and that certainly made it 'convenient' when the one I wanted happened to be, oh, right at the bottom.
3. They were mixed up with too much other junk. 
There were other stuff mixed up with the journals which I was not using. This included stationery, stickers, random pieces of paper, name cards, other homemade journals... 

All combined, the pile was long overdue for a decluttering a la Marie Kondo. As I started to clear the pile, I uncovered even more bits of paper and trash, resulting in another small scrap heap that I had to clear other than the journals. 😖 Some were easy, like outdated insurance letters dating back from 2008. Some were more difficult, like Christmas cards from close friends. *sigh*

One thing became clear though: My creative output was not equal to the material input that I had accumulated. For all the paper, stickers and junk I had kept, how much of it had actually turned into actual artwork? I had kept a lot of paper, thinking "This would come in handy if I wanted to...*insert craft project here*" but for work or some reason or another, I never got around to doing it and the materials just stayed there. Or I would buy new materials, thinking "I can use this if I... *insert new craft idea here*" but again, the materials stayed there. 

Even the things I used were also existing in surplus. I did more journalling in 2016 so I told myself I would allow myself to use whatever I had bought, without fear of failure. I wrote on my nice notepads, I tore things out of my Flow Book for Paper Lovers, I shrugged away the numerous mistakes I made, resolving to be more careful the next time, I gleefully tore out metres and metres of washi tape. 

And I still had tons of those materials. 😱 The things in my room seem like a neverending black hole of paper, washi tape and stickers. Made even worse by my seemingly bright idea to do a couple of projects with junk paper, which meant that I had also accumulated a small stack of junk paper from work...... 

I think I'm not the only person this has happened to. How many times have we bought something with good intentions, thinking that it will come in handy, or that it will help us to achieve some goal? Hands up all the guilty ones who have books unread (me), paints unused (me), clothes unworn, exercise equipment being used as clothes hangers and other things bought with good intentions in January only to be covered in dust by March. 

For me, the bottom line is clear. I bought these supplies to be creative, so be creative I must. That is,

my CREATIVE OUTPUT must = my MATERIAL INPUT

Everything I have now must be used, used and used even for what seems like the most frivolous of reasons. It doesn't matter even if I don't churn out the Mona Lisa from my supplies, what matters is that I use them to the best of my abilities and use them to improve my creative skills in whatever way possible. That also means that I will make mistakes and end up chucking away some hard-earned material. Take it as a lesson learned rather than a wasted failure. 

The funny thing is that during this month when I was doing that, somehow I started to improve in small ways. My brush lettering improved because I now had oodles of junk paper to practise on. My journalling started to look better when I used my coloured markers to write with and my washi tape and stickers to decorate. I even found some of my markers running out of ink, which was sad yet gratifying at the same time. 

So if there's one thing you have to remember:


This can be found on my Instagram (@khelath) 

We are not put on this earth to buy and accumulate things. We are meant to DO things. So if there's something around you that's accumulating, (like my craft materials) ask yourself why, and just DO something with it to get started. We are not buyers of life, we are DOERS. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Personal Thoughts

I realize it’s been a while since I last blogged and maybe some of you are thinking of calling the blog police to make a Missing Bloggers Report (Ha, I only hope!) so I thought of doing a Personal Thoughts entry as an update.

It’s the end of February 2017 and I’ve been on leave the past 2 weeks at home, waiting for the birth of my first baby! After all the walking around at work, it was a relief to finally stay at home and relax before baby comes out and creates a new round of havoc.

I enjoyed the first 3 days of leave just slacking around, doing some art journaling, reading, watching TV… and then I got bored.

You see, it is relaxing having no obligations or deadlines to meet, but after a while, life becomes very aimless. I felt like I was just floating around without a purpose, other than waiting around for baby to be born. I also felt like this was a waste of my precious leave.

So I took out the To-Do lists again and started giving myself some aims. I didn’t want to make my whole life full of deadlines again but I could commit to doing some ‘work’ in the morning and then keep myself busy in the afternoon with art or photography projects. In that way, I could also write enough articles to keep the blog alive even after baby came out.

Now I realize I made myself into something like a freelance writer. -_-!! I can’t complain that it’s a bad life, seeing that I wake up at any time I feel like and I’m actively doing something I’m good at, but most of all, I appreciate the sense of purpose it gives me. That now, instead of my identity revolving solely around being a mummy, I also have other things in life to work and develop towards. Treat it as a kind of school holiday, I guess.

And what happens when baby comes? Well, then I switch to taking care of him then. Just like during the school holidays, I also have to understand that this period of freelance writing is temporary. I’m not in it to make money or build a career (though it would be a bonus if I did!) but rather to create a sense of purpose and identity. To help me see myself as a more rounded person, more than just being a teacher or a mother.


Whether this continues or not still remains to be seen. But after all, this blog has seen a few years’ hiatus and has weathered it through to be better in the end. I may take it up again after I have kids or I may end up neglecting it until the kids get married and I have Empty Nest Syndrome -_-!! More importantly, for now, I feel I’m working towards something and even if I leave it aside, I have something else waiting for me to take up again later in life.