Thursday, February 10, 2011


You never know what you'll find or where your finds will lead you. Yesterday, on a walk with a friend, I found an enormous number of these branches, in a huge pile by the curb, ready to be picked up by the town's yard waste removal program. The buds, at that point, were tight, and mostly green, but clearly ready to burst open. Mostly, I was attracted to them because I can never quite resist the thought of recreating interesting branches in silver. But I also thought it would be lovely to put the branches in water and force the blossoms. I wasn't certain it would work, because I've only ever heard of people forcing a small subset of blossomy branches--forsythia, flowering quince--but it seemed logical that all flowering trees would function on the same basic principle. Within hours of getting them home, it was clear they were very pleased with the jar of water I gave them.

I have this negative reaction to the word "force" in this context. It seems somehow cruel. But really, trees and bushes like to be pruned--they grow better for it. And what better to do with the clippings than provide them with what they need to shine? A jar of water, some warmth. It's not much as far as structure goes, but administered at the right time, that's all it takes for a branch to explode with flowers.

* * * * *

I am constantly amazed at how desperately I need to be creating
something--writing, jewelry, pottery, photographs, sewn projects, knit projects. It almost doesn't matter, because even when I'm working on something that isn't in one of my primary creative categories, as long as I'm really engaged by the work, it's a sure bet that it will eventually bleed right into working on something that carries more weight for me.

But it's not easy for me to keep that sort of creative momentum going on my own, and that's dangerous, because when I don't keep it going, I become depressed. More than any of the other things I do to combat my depression (and they are multitude), creative activity is the most important, the most consistently reliable. It's no exaggeration to say that an afternoon spent writing or throwing pots has a drug-like effect on me.

Over the last couple of years, I've come to believe that having some sort of creative community is almost imperative for me in order to continue or deepen my creative practices. I never called myself a writer until I had a community of writers with whom to share my work--people to whom I was responsible for getting some writing done, people who considered me a creative peer. Beyond my writing practice itself, having that community transformed me into a writer. If nothing else, I felt the structure of my responsibility to them--when it was my night to workshop, I really felt that positive pressure. That forcing. They wanted blossoms from me, and so I blossomed.

The last couple of months--since the beginning of this year--I've found one external prompt and creative community after another. First, A River of Stones, and the community that went with it, and then the Wading In class and that community. And now I'm starting the next of Vivienne's photography classes, You Are Your Own Muse, and I expect that class and its community to be every bit as wonderful as the last one. One reason I decided to take it is that I love just knowing that there are people with whom I'm responsible for building creative community--people who are both out there doing their own work and also excited to witness the work that I'm doing. It's totally inspiring. It's just the sort of gentle, casual structure I need, apparently, to force myself in the right direction, to be consistently happy; to explode with flowers.


  1. Wise words Amy, I totally relate to what you say about creativity, depression, and how hard it is to keep the momentum by yourself. You are inspiring...

  2. Amy, Catching up with you - this metaphor of a creative "force" is wonderful - as are your blossoms (cherry?). I wonder sometimes if truly artistic people have a force that pulls them under occasionally if the current isn't obeyed? I say - swim for it and do something you love every day. (Perhaps easier for me to do since I'm old and don't have responsibility for children anymore!) I'll peruse our other posts now - have a great Valentine Weekend.

  3. Whoops - I mean - I'll peruse YOUR other posts...

  4. How I love that the winter has broken, and it is the time of year when bloomy branches are piled in armloads for curbside pickup! (Truly, this is the time of year I drive my husband crazy with my stick collecting...) xox

  5. Barb! So lovely to see you here--Lis and I have both been thinking about you. (And I'm pretty sure the blossoms are almond, it's just about that time around here. The various cherry trees bloom a bit later, I think.)

    Also, I think everyone has a force that pulls them under if the current isn't obeyed. Maybe it's just that some people's currents are more intense than others. xoxo

  6. Sam, thanks for that--I barely feel inspired some days, so it's quite a compliment to be told I'm inspiring! ;-) And I'm glad to know other people can relate to the creativity/depression link.

  7. Lis: Wait until you see the tree segment I collected on this same walk. I'm planning it as a feature in the new studio space, but I didn't even bother bringing it home yet, since I couldn't bear to face Brian's (loving!) ridicule without having an immediate place to put it. :-)

  8. Amen to blossoms and creative communities! I totally believe it is crucial for my mental and spiritual health to be creating something. And like you say it doesn't have to be anything grand, it seems to be the process that counts x

  9. Oh Amy... you're speaking my thoughts & feelings again, I love that.

    I have been, by the way, still brewing a response our email exchange on self-portraiture, self-image etc.

    Actually, I'm going to email you now.

    I've been thinking of you & Lis often... was lucky enough to bump into her at the COOP last week.

    Yesterday I imagined a picnic that we could go on either at Stebbins Cold Canyon or at the arboretum with the little boy imps & various COOP delectables.

    Hopefully imagining it will be the first step to arranging it!


  10. I think I may be in need of some forcing!

  11. I notice that I'm not quite myself when I've gone a decent while without taking my camera out and playing with it. It's subtle, but I can feel it. Like a tiny slowing of the life-force, as it were. Everything is better when I've taken pictures recently.

    So happy to meet you in your new community!

  12. I very much know what you mean--I feel this deep frustration when I'm not creatively engaged. Sometimes I start to just be annoyed by everything, and I don't know what has come over me until I realize that I just need to get more engaged in my creative work--generally, do more making. A community to report back to can really motivate a forward movement. I also just get so excited and motivated by ideas--when the ideas keep flowing, I keep making. And the ideas usually come from making. It's funny how that works. My mantra is generally, just keep making art and more will come. I love reading your thoughts on these subjects!

  13. You guys are so great. If only all of you could be part of our here-in-real-life creative community! But online community is just as real...and with so many fewer scheduling conflicts! ;-)

    I'm not really surprised, but it's always so good to have confirmation that you're not alone in these things--apparently, this kind of struggle is just part and parcel of living a creatively driven life.

    And Nicole--YES! It's absolutely amazing how many ideas I start to have once I've actually moved myself into the creative space. I can hardly keep up sometimes, but it's always thrilling.