Friday, July 10, 2009

Creativity One Moment at a Time

Detail of Joie de Vivre 1 by Gayle Pritchard

My daylilies are blooming. Seeing them reminds me of the ephemeral quality of summertime, of life itself. The first time I recall seeing these flowers was when we lived in West Virginia over thirty years ago. On the frequent drive back and forth to Ohio, I would see them, the old varieties I now know, blooming in gullies along the side of the road. I thought they were beautiful.

In my garden, while I have a few of the newer, “everblooming” varieties, I cherish the old-timey ones, in which each bloom only lasts one day. Hence the common name, daylily. You can admire and cherish them for the day they are blooming, but they are on their own pre-determined schedule. The next morning, the previous days’ bloom will be wilted on the stem. They are of immense, and fleeting, beauty.

Creative inspiration seems to keep the same schedule as the daylily. An idea comes, seemingly out of nowhere. It could be in the mist before sleep comes, or first thing in the morning, the sleeper barely awake. Ideas come on long walks, in the shower, driving the car; the more inconvenient for recording them, the better. The creative mind seems to work this way. If I fail to focus on the thought, the very fleeting mist of a vision, it disappears, and my mind can no longer grasp the fullness of what it had seen in that instant.

My journal / sketchbooks are full of such attempts to capture the wisps of an idea before they slip away. The dropping out of thin air quality of creative inspiration is, apparently, a common experience. I remember hearing the story Paul McCartney told of writing the song Yesterday. He says he woke up with the melody in his head, and spent a month asking his friends and colleagues if they had heard it before. When he was sure the song, which he called Scrambled Eggs, was his own, he began to write lyrics.

While I believe that there is no particular magic to being an artist, I must admit that, when the creative mind works overtime solving a creative problem, it can seem very magical when solutions are delivered unexpectedly. It truly feels like grabbing the air and pulling out a gem.

Over the past two decades I have learned to keep my mind open. Looking in my journals reminds me of this. Thinking, sketching and dreaming are all part of an artists work-out routine. This is what creativity is made of. Anyone can learn it, but no one can teach it. It's a path you have to discover for yourself.
Sketch for The Day Momma Died, with front of two-sided piece below.


  1. I loved this post. Very lovely. Just this week I took my spade and bucket and drove to a spot where I saw orange daylilies with triple pedals on the side of our street. We had had these along our drive before a neighbor sprayed them by accident and killed them all. Now they are back. This story is sometimes true with our ideas. xxoo

  2. Thanks, Terry. I love your analogy of how ideas sometimes circle back around, giving us a second chance! Glad you got some new daylilies, too. Something else I find interesting, is how many artists also love working in their gardens.

  3. Every morning I rush outside with my cup of coffee to see the birth of my daylilies...a gift of the present. Now I am sharing; not so nicely at times , with a young deer mother because I would love to at least see them before she eats them. Then I felt the guilt because as a mother she needs to eat quite a lot to feed her young. My days are full and like the daylily I need to remember to bloom each morning. Imagine and live in Peace, Mary Helen

  4. I knew I wasn't the only artist who loved the quality of the daylily! I will picture you now, as I do the same upon waking. I also like your analogy of "blooming" each morning. I will try to take that thought with me in the morning.

  5. Isn't it so interesting that those fleeting moments of inspiration and beauty give us such strength? I have been amazed lately at the fragility of life... of all living things... juxtaposed with the immense strength of the spirit in us all. Each day, each creative "blossom," is most definitely a gift:) I treasure mine...

    P.S. Speaking of treasures PLEASE pretty please talk to me before selling any of your classic quilts off! I hope no one is eye balling your lovely Joie de vivre pieces!!! ;)

  6. I think the recognizing the fragility of life reminds us of our own nebulous status, and causes us to wonder at the amazing quality of it all. Let us all remember to "bloom" today.