Thursday, 21 February 2013

_what orchids teach me about design and life




Orchids take an absolute age to grow. Those amazing, kissing flowers explode in seductive slow motion from their shiny little green orbs and then they hang around being pleasing for a couple of months. They don’t need much water, they like light, and air. That’s about it.

They are not quite like the Resurrection plant of the Sahara which can appear dead for a hundred years. Even so, after a decent stretch of flowering, the flowers suddenly wither  and drop off, and the beautiful orchid turns into a dead-looking stick and no fool in their right mind would do anything other than throw it out, surely? Well hold on, not so fast.

Anyone who knows these things will leap to correct me - if you keep watering the plant modestly once a week, and believe that something is happening even though you can’t see it, a new shoot will appear and those shiny green orbs will grow up again and explode into kissing flowers once more.

The creative journey can be exactly like this; sitting with ideas tucked away in secret, holding out with faith that something brilliant will appear given the right conditions to flourish. 

Every time I receive a new project brief to create a design or illustration, I sit in front of a blank page slightly terrified that nothing will happen. Do I throw in the towel at this point? NO. I learn through cycles of experience to be brave and sit tight - something always happens. Just by turning up and feeding myself with the human equivalent of creative air (music), light (images and design) and water (other human beings), something extraordinary happens in the secret place while I’m not there to prod and pick at it. So long as I show up and make myself available, pencil in hand, new ideas always arrive. 

Making yourself available for creating means not ditching out when you think all you have is a dead-looking stick.

I have learned that the creative journey is about being prepared to be taken over. Ideas come as a surprise of life when you least expect it, and this is why each day of making and creating teaches me never to take my limited understanding or perpsective for granted. 

Be prepared: creating is always a joy, always a surprise of life, and never happens on your own terms.

Orchids teach us a good lesson in patience and faith, holding out for new life and ideas.
You have to have courage in that empty space, absent of any guarantees. I sit with things that are not yet fully formed, maybe as if looking through a veil, trusting that something is on its way into being.

Holding your nerve and hanging in, even when it appears that nothing is happening, may turn out to be the best gift of all. 

Hang in - ideas, and life, will happen.

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