I can’t tell you how many times I sit in front of the computer staring at a work in progress, waiting for inspiration to strike. I stare at it for so long that eventually, just like staring at a word for a long time makes it seem less like a word and more like a jumble of letters that don’t make sense, my piece of work starts to separate and become a mess of elements that in my mind don’t work well together.
When a project doesn’t come together as I would like it to, it becomes easy to blame myself and to accuse myself of having a lack of talent for graphic design. When color combinations don’t meld beautifully I decide I don’t have a knack for color theory. When I can’t settle on layer styles and drop shadows and strokes and gradients I decide I can’t make up my mind and so have no talent for graphic design. And when—Good Lord, this is the worst—I can’t settle on a font… The sky is falling.
Here is the big revelation that always takes me a while to come up with in my own mind—sometimes I am just not in a graphic designing mood.
I am waiting for inspiration to strike when I should either be a) putting down the work, shutting off the computer, and reading a book to my kids, or b) doing a little bit of inspiration-surfing (Pinterest is great for this). I am an internet “browser,” a “surfer” to the core. Have always been and more than likely always will be. I am one of those people who can sit in front of a computer for hours looking at random things.
A funny thing about that is it is not always random. Sure, someone who watches me doing it (Master P, as my husband likes to be called) might automatically and loudly proclaim that it is his turn on the computer because he thinks I am not doing anything productive, when in fact I am! I swear it! This random text not-so-artfully arranged on the screen in front of me has a purpose—Font Research!
There is another reason why I start to doubt my abilities when I am working on a project and it has nothing to do with my abilities. I fail to understand that sometimes my mind is too full of other things to produce a viable piece of creativity on the screen. To succinctly put it, life gets in the way. Interior cartoonist and artist Jamie Smith wrote it best on his blog Ink & Snow when he said, “Sometimes what can kill off art is real life, when the banal realities of mundane everyday activities erode and eclipse the pursuit of one’s passion. It’s an irresistible force meets immovable object scenario on a daily basis: exhaustion versus inspiration.”
When I sit down to the computer, which is in our living room, I often have a 2-year-old asking me to run her back, or an 8-year-old complaining that she’s thirsty, or a 6-year-old complaining that the 2-year-old is bothering her. It sometimes gets difficult accomplishing the completion of a project from start to finish in one sitting. If inspiration hits while I am at the computer, well, tough luck. Life is calling.
Lastly, what can prevent me from recognizing my own potential while working on a project is none other than artist’s block. Sometimes is it due to just not feeling like I have a good enough idea of where I want a project to go. Sometimes it is due to working on side projects that have nothing to do with graphic design, such as homework from a college class or a crochet project that in my mind has a deadline of yesterday. Focus focus focus! Eh, impossible.
I have found that I am most productive when I use all tools at my disposal to complete a project—Pinterest for inspiration, my iPad for hand drawing, a sketchbook for brainstorming layouts, bouncing color ideas off Master P since he was a painter for 25 years and knows his stuff. I draw on 10 years of experience in knowing what to do and what not to do. I take a breath, make a cup of breakfast tea with cream and sugar, and I tackle the project as if my life depends on it. And I get it done.
I must say, I am not always happy with it for various reasons, but that is perhaps a blog entry for another day. (Have you ever looked back on a project and cringe?)