Saturday, January 15, 2011

Make Something-See What Happens

I've been working on some material for upcoming workshops I will be teaching this spring and I ran across an article by novelist Louise Doughty in which she was talking about how to get started creating a plot for a book. I felt her words were very applicable to anyone trying to begin a new creative endeavor.

Here Ms. Doughty is talking about previous instructions to her students and she says, " Last week I asked you to take the material you have gathered and spread it out and put it into chronological order. I also asked you to fill in a few of the gaps in note form. What you were doing was plotting - and it really is as simple as that. When you are working on your first book, it is easy to believe that there is some holy mystery to plotting or structuring a novel but, at its most basic level, it is no more than a matter of you as a novelist deciding that this will happen, then this, then that...and if it doesn't work, you will change it."

By George I think she's got it! I also think Jasper Johns said something along the same lines...."Do something and then do something to that"...and so on.

Often when creating a workshop exercise I begin by writting it out and then I do the exercise, even if only on a small scale, and see how it goes. Sometimes I keep it as is, sometimes I change something. The tiny samples pictured are some fabrics I made and began putting together in various ways to see if they might generate an idea for a larger work. I'm only working with 3 different constructed fabrics but I can see that indeed it could take me to a more complete work.

If you are sitting at home today longing to start something new but you just don't know where to start I'd like to suggest you make something small, then make another something that is somehow related and then another and soon you will have a nice little collection of things you can work with and arrange and respond to and all of a sudden you'll get a bigger idea and you're off! If that doesn't do the trick, start again. Observe what you have done previously and begin anew.

Ms. Doughty states later in the article that this doesn't mean that somewhere along the way you won't have to back up a little or do some planning ahead but you will have started and that is the most necessary step to take. Go it!

Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you and remember.....

Commenting is FREE!!


  1. We have a tongue-in-cheek saying which we use at our house: Big things happen when you do the little things first. (It is actually "little things right" and is the title of a work book that my husband was required to read.) In any case, I think this might be what you are suggesting. Get going and keep going on what you got going on! It is easy to get stuck for lack of inertia but doing some small things first and then building on them is a great way to operate.

    Another thoughtful post so thank you:)

  2. Thank you Libby! You are spot on! People often want to go right to the "masterpiece" without doing the studies and that just doesn't happen. Inertia should be classified as "one of the deadly sins". I appreciate your comments.

  3. You are right and this is something I often forget to do.

  4. Isn't it the truth! Sometimes I think it is even more difficult after you have been working a long time. Sometimes you just need to stop and go back to square one. Thank you for commenting Karen!

  5. Terry, This post is such a good exercise. For years I have used the following quotes in my classes from Jasper Johns and Richard Serra, quotes that you probably know.

    Johns stated: Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it. Do something else to it.(and on and on)

    Serra had his "Verb Lists":
    to roll
    to crease
    to fold
    to store
    to bend
    to shorten
    to twist
    to dapple
    to crumple
    to shave
    to tear
    to chip
    to split
    to cut
    to sever
    to drop
    to remove
    to simplify
    to differ
    to disarrange
    to open
    to mix
    to splash
    to knot
    to spill
    to droop
    to flow
    to curve
    to lift
    to inlay
    to impress
    to fire
    to flood
    to smear
    to rotate
    to swirl
    to support
    to hook
    to suspend
    to spread
    to hang
    to collect
    of tension
    of gravity
    of entropy
    of nature
    of grouping
    of layering
    of felting
    to grasp
    to tighten
    to bundle
    to heap
    to gather
    to scatter
    to arrange
    to repair
    to discard
    to pair
    to distribute
    to surfeit
    to compliment
    to enclose
    to surround
    to encircle
    to hole
    to cover
    to wrap
    to dig
    to tie
    to bind
    to weave
    to join
    to match
    to laminate
    to bond
    to hinge
    to mark
    to expand
    to dilute
    to light
    to modulate
    to distill
    of waves
    of electromagnetic
    of inertia
    of ionization
    of polarization
    of refraction
    of tides
    of reflection
    of equilibrium
    of symmetry
    of friction
    to stretch
    to bounce
    to erase
    to spray
    to systematize
    to refer
    to force
    of mapping
    of location
    of context
    of time
    of cabonization
    to continue

  6. ooh I really like these line based pieces. I do hope we are going to have some fun like this in your Barn Workshop! I am very excited about April!

  7. Good advice Terry. I'm working on some prototype stuff - trying to remember that these little bits will lead me to the bigger ideas I have in mind. Well, at least I hope they will! One step at a time.

  8. You have made my day. Brilliant!

  9. Thank you Jane, Pam and Elle! I know Johns' statement but have never seen the verb list. It's great and I'm printing it out right now. Pam, we will be using this in the workshop and I believe you will love the process and results. Gosh Elle, You've made My Day!!! Happy Saturday to all.

  10. Terry, if you Google the "Serra verbs" you can see actual images of handwritten lists he made.

  11. Uh for me, there is no other way to work than "make something and see what happens." Of course, sometimes nothing happens - but that is always a learning experience - LOL.

  12. Terry, A great post and a wonderful way to get off the dime and get something done especially if you are feeling stuck. I think you can really build on this for your class. Thanks

  13. Thanks for this post, Terry. The other thing I like to keep in mind when working is that this is not the last piece I am ever making. I don't have to put everything into it because there will be other opportunities, i.e. if this piece doesn't work, maybe it will teach me something I can use for making the next one.

  14. Thank you Martha, Rayna, Diane and Nancy! Great comments!

    Nancy I loved your comment about keeping perspective. The very fact that we will make another piece should be one of the lures that keeps us working.

  15. This fits right in with Sandy Donabed's philosophy that everybody has a crap quotient and you just have to work and work and work and be ready to relagate some of those pieces to the crap quotient pile.

    I have to remind myself frequently about that quotient.

  16. That's funny Rayna. It would be nice to know when your are reaching that critial point ;-)

  17. Must be something in the air or the winter doldrums. for some reason almost every blog post I have read today has mentioned creative blocks or artists having a hard time starting.Maybe we all need more sunshine as well as your wonderful suggestions.

  18. You may be right Judy! I can't wait for warmer weather and a few gentle sunbeams. Thank you for commenting and brightening my day!

  19. I can really relate to your inspiration from another creative medium. I love how the creative urge overlaps (no pun intended!).