Shifting creative gears

Enjoy a tiny adventurous moment close to home. It changes your perspective, reminding you that the world is deep and rich and full of color and miracles.” –SARK

A lot of us are stumbling over creative blocks lately. Those who live in the wintry Midwest and Northeast blame it on lack of sunshine. Or cabin fever. Even if things are going reasonably well in other areas of our lives, we might gaze out our windows at the icy moonscape that once bloomed with roses or black-eyed Susans and feel twinges of ennui, or even despair.

Whatever the cause, it’s hard to get inspired when you’re sluggish and blue.

Last month I tripped over a huge creative block and hit a wall. For starters, what began as a satisfying home renovation project was abruptly stalled by a carpet order gone wrong, thanks to the evil Home Depot. (As a result, our master bedroom stayed torn apart for weeks.) Meanwhile, my elderly mom’s dementia-related health problems took a turn for the worse, requiring several trips to her doctor — and the hospital — for tests. As her sole caregiver, I felt helpless and exhausted.

Worst of all, I couldn’t seem to write or talk my way out of any of it. It was time to work from another side of my brain. Time to shift creative gears and to make something tangible and fun.

Bead therapy

Just in time, I received a clothing catalog featuring one of the coolest fetish necklaces I’d ever seen. Strung with African trading beads, brass trinkets, and a wild collection of charms, it evoked long walks on Caribbean beaches and cabana cocktails under the stars. A summer-fantasy vacation on a string!

I was tempted to pull out my credit card and purchase the fetish necklace online or over the phone. Instead, I decided to treat myself to the pure fun of making it myself.

Things were slow at the local craft store when I arrived on a gray Wednesday afternoon with the catalog photo in hand. The salesclerk working in the bead section was just as intrigued by the necklace, and eager to help with the project. Taking my time, I chose a few imported beads that had special meaning to me: a wooden bead with a butterfly motif (symbolizing transformation); another with a Celtic spiral; others that simply caught my eye.

At home I played with the beads until they became a necklace, stringing them together one by one and finding myself in a sunnier frame of mind. Of course, our master bedroom was still in chaos, beyond my control. And my mother’s dementia-related “episodes” were still unresolved. Regardless, I’d made something cheerful and new. The necklace wasn’t exactly like the one in the catalog — but I’d made it my own.

I often tell my workshop students that writing an essay or a chapter is a bit like stringing beads to form a beautiful necklace. Like the right bead, each word or sentence must do its share of the work to bring meaning or sparkle to the whole piece. You need to take your time, choose carefully, and take pleasure in the process.

That said, no matter what you’re working on, you could find yourself getting tangled up in “the process” at some point. When that happens, it helps to take a break. Or try making yourself a real necklace. — Cindy La Ferle

— Fetish necklace in photos by Cindy La Ferle —

17 thoughts on “Shifting creative gears

  1. I love the idea of creatng our own necklaces. It seems a nice way to work through your thoughts, maybe step back for awhile, and end up with a beautiful piece of jewelry. It’d make a great gift, too, for family and friends, choosing the beads that we see them as. Very personal.

  2. Good Morning Cindy,

    I visited the Paint Creek Center for the Arts (Rochester Michigan) to help get “unstuck” this past week. The center is less than three miles away but I had never stopped and entered.

    However, they have an altered book class offered … you share your altered books stories so I was attracted.

    I didn’t sign up for any classes but it was an enjoyable visit.

    Mary Ellen

  3. OMG — WOW — OMG — Oh Cindy, the necklace is a knockout. You have impressed me, once again, with your beautiful art work. I love your story of almost pulling out the credit card (that would be be me). I have no luck with beadwork because I am just not patient enough with the process and that is OK when there are others out there like you that can just pick up the catalogue, take it to the craft store, pick out the beads, and then let her inner art muse loose on it. *Applause* *Applause* Thanks for your warm words over at the Honeysuckles, they mean a lot to me! BEAD ON, woman warrior! BEAD ON…..

  4. Wow — thanks for the comments on the necklace, everyone! And Joanne, you’re reading my mind. The fantasy necklace I made is likely to be a birthday gift for a friend who’ll get a kick out of it.

    Mary Ellen, I need to get to that exhibit — thanks for the heads up!

    Marlynn, I love the “Bead on, woman warrior!” You “get” it, art woman!

    And last but not least,
    thanks for the support and good thoughts, Starrlife — they mean a lot to me. I know you’ve had some serious issues with your mom too, and I send you hugs. Mom is doing better this week. One day at a time…

  5. This is such a beautiful necklace, Cindy! I am impressed and inspired to try making one. I am not as creative as you though. And I mainly stick to knitting.
    Sorry to hear about your mom. I don’t advertise this, but I run a hospice home and daughters as caring as you and as loving, are very few. In the last fifteen years I have seen all sorts of people. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself. Share the responsibility with someone, or you’ll burn out quickly.
    Sending lots of happy thoughts and best wishes for a lovely week ahead. Hugs!

  6. Beautiful necklace and apt analogy as we move through times of transition. It helps to remember that “it’s a process.” That doesn’t make it easier, but taking a break to make something beautiful does.

  7. “…..sole caregiver, I felt helpless and exhausted.
    Worst of all, I couldn’t seem to write or talk my way out of any of it. It was time to work from another side of my brain. Time to shift creative gears and to make something tangible and fun.”

    So THAT explains why I decided, out of the blue, to make a quilt! It all makes sense to me now.

    Love your new necklace. It’s gorgeous and perfect for your coloring.

    Thanks for another terrific post Cindy. It’s just what I needed.

    Hope your week is good.

  8. Cool necklace there Cindy and very inspiring post. The saturated Autumn and earth tones are some of my favorites.

    You’re so right about taking a little adventure, a little diversion, a little risk with the unfamiliar, when we are blocked and/or stumbling around with the very thing we love and enjoy doing.

    When I am in a fog with my writing, I head to my open, windy porch or my bed, with tea, my journal and a book. Or I may pull a new recipe and cook.

  9. Fabulous. And you are so right.
    I have to be careful not to throw myself into something , but to chose a small manageable , I can finish fairly quickly project. Your necklace is divine. And that you are gifting it is such a reflection of your always generous spirit.

    I don’t know if I mentioned it , but my oldest daughter and I are going to NYC this coming weekend . I know it will inspire, refresh, invigorate, and recharge. I am beyond excited.

    My FIL bounced back so quickly from his hip replacement, and of course we are relieved. I feel for you, caring and worrying for your Mother. Please take care of yourself , too.
    Sending hugs and prayers.

  10. “that writing an essay or a chapter is a bit like stringing beads to form a beautiful necklace. Like the right bead, each word or sentence must do its share of the work to bring meaning or sparkle to the whole piece.”

    This analogy-so true. My writing often never seems complete and I grow weary from not having something done. I often resort to some task that has a finite end. Planting a package of bulbs or flowers fresh from the nursery, finishing a reading book, doing the dishes. Something that I can say is finished. Perhaps I need to string some beads as there always seems to be dishes.

  11. Gorgeous! Your idea of self-medication is appealing, Cindy. And now you can hang it on the wall above your desk or wear it and feel the magic over and over.

    I’m not good at beading but I enjoy it. Time doesn’t pass while I sort, assemble and reassemble colors and shapes. A good mental vacatin.

  12. Oh Cindy! You know how beading came to my rescue during a hiatus from writing. The necklace is gorgeous and the solitary act of stringing one bead after another is so very soothing. The return from stringing beads to strings words evolves.
    If you want beads, come on over. You know what they say about beaders, don’t you? They never die, they just become unstrung.

  13. Debra D — yes, I DO remember your beading, and in fact, thought about you when I was at Munro Craft buying the beads for this necklace. YOU inspired me to find art in other places when life and writing are too much for us… Thank you, my friend! I am feeling less “unstrung” these days 🙂

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