A Note From Rebecca: Creativity + Frustration

Posted by Rebecca Atwood

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” 

Scott Adams

It’s been quite a shift to give myself three studio days a week. I needed them. I’ve begun oil painting again, which I hadn’t done since college but longed for. There’s such joy and love in it.

But then comes the moment of looking at what I’ve made and wanting to improve it. To evolve the idea with more ease, a better prepared ground, more skill. Or simply waiting for the idea to reveal itself. It can be quite frustrating! I can doubt myself and then doubt how I’m spending my time. There are days when I don’t like anything I’ve made.

I’ve shared this on social media and been surprised by the responses I’ve received. I think that’s because, for me, frustration is so normal. It’s part of my process. That sparked an idea: a series of letters about creativity and my practice. You’ll find them here in our quarterly newspapers.

The truth is, I revel in frustration. Not every moment, of course, but there’s something so good about being frustrated. If you don’t want more, you aren’t learning or pushing forward. 

My three-year-old daughter is a constant source of inspiration. When she paints, I see her take pleasure in the process without caring too much about the outcome, although she is quite particular about her colors. I also watch her frustration drive her to try again. We are so undeterred at that age.

When my frustration peaks, I like to have multiple things to work on. I can set one aside and try a new medium. Sometimes I close my sketchbook and revisit it days, months, or years later. Often with time I see something different.

The key is to keep making. To keep looking, keep discovering. And to remember that frustration is part of the process. My friend Charlotte Hallberg reminds me to turn off my thinking brain and let the intuitive stuff come: “Your hands will eventually train your brain to realize what’s good or when to leave it.” That feels so true. 

And it’s how this collection came together. This summer’s designs flowed quite naturally from my sketches. That’s fitting given my inspiration. I wanted to capture the colors and textures of sunlit curtains in an open window, blowing freely in the wind. I hope they inspire you to reconnect with your creativity and revel in everything it brings.

Thank you, Rebecca