Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Filling the Well of Ideas

The most common question non-creative people ask creative people is: "Where do you get your ideas from?" The answer is pretty universal across the various artforms and mediums – personal experience, observing human behaviour, dreams, reading, anecdotes, photos and pictures, television – the list goes on. What is essential in the process is that one perpetually keeps topping up the well of the subconscious mind with content because it is through a miracle of transmutation in the deep underwater chasms that the individual pieces combine with each other to spout out original ideas into our conscious awareness. There are so many metaphors to describe this process – individual ingredients fuse with each other to form the perfect culinary dish; straw being spun into gold; patchworks sewn together to form a quilt; body parts stitched together and hit with a bolt of electricity to form Frankenstein's monster ... 

One of my favourite things to do to fuel this process is to scrapbook and I don't mean preserving my family history in albums; rather, I cut out newspaper and magazine photos and articles that inspire my imagination and then stick them into a visual arts diary. At the moment I have a twelve inch pile of collating to do. My 14-year old second cousin Reece who has a flair for art has been helping me on a paid basis. He has sorted the information into themes – architecture, nature, faces, underwater landscapes and animal life (specifically collected for Elf~Fin), interesting professions, and so on – and is gradually gluing them into the book. 

There is a downside to this undertaking. I buy four weekends papers every week but I sometimes don't get to read them all during that time. I then obsessively hoard them – in fact, I have about five years worth of unread newspapers piled up in our rumpus room. I then get into this unhealthy internal conflict between my decluttering, practical, pragmatic organiser self versus my obsessive self. Ditch the stuff unread! No, no, go through those papers and capture all the pieces you need. 

But there is a masterplan! A professional oganiser won't do the trick as I still need to look through them, and I'm pretty sure a mind-reading superhero with powers to scan, spot, scissor and paste the exact items I need doesn't exist in real life. However, I'm proud to say  the pile is gradually getting smaller because I have made a conscious choice and a conscious effort to multi-task – peruse a few yellowing pages as I clean out the kitty litter trays. I don't actually read these papers – the news is far too old and won't serve me in the slightest except to add to more information overload. But I grab two or three double pages from a broadsheet, do a quick scan and then either rip out an interesting photo story or just shovel piles of cat poop on top of it and wrap up the bundle as one would a serving of fish and chips and then throw it into the trash. In truth if I wanted to clear this backlog quickly, I would need to dedicate about three entire weeks to the task – time I can ill afford. So, I am doing it piecemeal over a long period of time. This should work in theory unless I keep piling new stuff onto it. To prevent this from occurring I have taken a new vow – read the papers within the week of release or turf them out. Now ... if we could only get Jozef to start working on his stuff what a perfect world it would be!

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