Saturday, 14 January 2012

Priming the Pump

So, last week I declared that I was going to revamp my book "Whale Mapping" in order to submit it to an upcoming group show in the lovely gallery at Cape Breton University. Well, of course, I dithered and dawdled and waited for inspiration to my sleep? While walking the dog? Maybe an image mysteriously appearing on my morning toast? Perhaps reflected in a glass of wine? (Ah, the wine inspiration. So reliable. not.).

Unfortunately, waiting for inspiration rarely produces inspiration.

Reading the Globe and Mail last week I came upon a pithy little nugget of wisdom by the author Wade Davis, a Canadian anthropologist/ethnobotanist/Massey lecturer/"Explorer in Residence" for the National Geographic Society and author of a great book The Serpent and the Rainbow about voodoo zombies in Haiti. This guy is all about self-invention and intellectual creativity. To quote Wade:

"Creativity is not the motivation for action. It's the consequence of action."

Ah. Action. So that's what's been missing.

Action. And a hard deadline. So I set to work, the day before the submission deadline. Thankfully, I do not have to fire up a kiln, hack at a lump of marble or forge iron. I went to work with my little pieces of paper and my sharp little x-acto knife and a ruler. I came up with what I think is a nifty book. I've taken a little wonky video of it for you as this book is so amazingly complex I can barely describe it to you with mere words:

I know. A tour-de-force of form meets function. Profound in it's message delivery. Sometimes I amaze myself.

Therefore, my message to you, Oh 8 loyal followers of my blog, is - well, not a message. It's a question. What primes your pump? What makes you create when you're just not really in the mood? For me, other than an oppressive deadline, it is beauty. I know, it's bourgeois and perhaps a bit corny but it's what makes me make. Make things.

I have a photo I took from a trip to France that really sums it all up for me:

This is someone's random act of beauty. Those flowers are not of that vine, growing over the entrance of a 13th century church. Concealed behind that inconspicuously curled leaf is one of those florist's water vials that holds the two daisies. Someone placed those flowers there, at the entrance of a church that sits in the middle of about 100 hectares of vineyard, away from everyone and everything.

 As small and transitory as this random act of beauty may have seemed to the person who put it there, it was meaningful enough for me to take a picture of it, and to share it with 8 other people, who it may in turn inspire. Now that's powerful. That should prime anyone's pump, I'd say.


  1. Sometimes I just can't create when I'm not motivated. I am really motivated by deadlines, as you said. I tend to get going on a project when I am running out of time and then I am so excited by it I wish I had weeks more to work on it!! I read something the other day about someone who asked a well-known author "so, you must really love writing". He replied, "No, I love having written". I do love having made. Sometimes the making part is hard! :) There are also certain stages of the process that I love more than others. I like it best when the clay is still wet.
    The book looks great!

  2. Time and solitude, for me. After everything else is done... laundry and dishes done, dogs napping, when I have an afternoon to myself.
    Today was the paper pinhole camera day!

  3. I don't have any one winning strategy for 'priming the pump' outside of trying to maintain a level of awareness. Ears and eyes and other senses at the ready to receive, experience or witness some kind of serendipitious or synchronous happening where everything comes together. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. I also try to fuel the fire with doing something like reading poetry that inspires me or a story, or watching a movie or just random googling. And when all else fails, and I arrive at my wit's end and think I'll never make anything worthwile again...I remember my friend Kim once said of these times, " I just decide I'll make something and have no expectations about it. The next thing I know, I'm making something." (That Kim is a smarty).

    You're Whale Mapping Book is wonderful.More please!

  4. lovely book Katherine, and very fun. There does need to be joy and fun and beauty, gets me going, and then there the awesome power of a commitment to other people, say publisher or boss, or feeding family, that might keep you going, And for my work, and yours too in this case, of telling a story that otherwise might not get told. Anne Marie