I’ve been watching a lot of Project Runway lately, because I’m totally on the cutting-edge of reality TV, obviously. I watch and I’m transported back to the huge textiles room at my first high school. It smelled of aged georgette and melted wax. Even if no one had used the electric frypans to warm wax for Batik in months, the room still smelled like it. I adored that class. I was always early to it, and only left when kicked out. If there was an opportunity to have my lunch in there and say I needed to borrow an easel or those angled tables to do “sketches” (more like eat my sandwich and drink my prima) I took it instantly. Just being in that room inspired me. I liked being in there. I fed off the surroundings.
My work wasn’t brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but I loved it. I didn’t sketch and work from there, I grabbed materials I thought were cool and worked backwards — much to the despair of my teacher. I’ve always been a bit of a backwards child. So when I saw the clear PVC plastic my eyes lit up. I made this awful long dress out of it, and appliqued purple asterisks all over it. The teacher made me make something else to put under it, because we had to model them and the idea of a 15 year old walking down the runway in a clear plastic dress was obviously something this Anglican all-girl’s school was not willing to partake in. Prudes. I grabbed some magenta satin because it looked pretty and made a long skirt, and a boob tube. It was bloody awful, but I just kept making it. I didn’t hate it, I knew it wasn’t fashion, it definitely wasn’t art. It was just this thing that was kinda ugly and no one would want anything to do with. But I dug it. It was fun to sew, I got good marks for picking a fabric almost impossible to deal with, and it was a learning experience. Plus I had a scar on my finger from when the sewing machine needle broke.
I got to stay in that room for longer than everyone else because it was a more complex design. I got to stay in that space and breathe in all the energy in there. I got to put on the feather boas in the fabrics room when no one was watching and do my Shirley Bassey impression.
It was here I started to become aware of a personality trait of mine. I’m incredibly needy when it comes to inspiration. Insanely so. If I don’t feel inspired, I throw in the towel. I am completely intolerant to not being inspired. It’s why I was a difficult student (especially when maths and sciences were concerned), and why I can be difficult even as an adult when forced to do something I don’t really want to. I need inspiration to keep going. More than a pin-board full of inspirational quotes or a stuffed toy on my work desk that makes me smile. I need the constant inspiration provided only by surrounding yourself with amazing people who are passionate about what they do, and I’m okay with that.
I’ve been to a few panels at the Emerging Writer’s Festival this year and it was amazing to see people walking away with huge grins on their faces, tweeting amazing light-bulb moments, and being energized to go and make stuff. I even overheard a woman after the last panel I went to say “It’s just common sense a lot of what they’re saying, but just hearing it from such amazing creators is inspiring, it means I know what they know”. To some extent she’s right. Hearing something you know is good advice, that you probably have heard before, but having it framed by someone you admire and look up to, is like dipping it in gold. If you’re wandering off the path it grabs you by both shoulders and convinces you that you were on the right track to begin with, dumdum.
I walked away ecstatic. I tweeted “I loved seeing people inspired and excited at #EWF12 and thinking to myself “They’re feeling what I feel at Freeplay” <3”. Freeplay to me is the big textiles room of my adulthood. Except it doesn’t just let me make a shitty dress. It beckons me to do better, to keep trying, and to absolutely nail it. Emerging Writers was the same. Just DO it, but do it well. Do it gracefully. Do it right. Be more excellent to each other.
For me, the most important thing I can do to continue to be a creator (and avoid plastic and magenta dresses) is to surround myself with people who give a damn. The support network I surround myself with, the festivals I go to, the community I immerse myself in, they’re the doctor I need to go see when my creative side is queasy.
I’ll never get tired of gathering together in person with large groups of like-minded people, all passionate about their field. There’s an electric energy that takes hold and makes you want to start verbing all over the place, but it’s coupled with this warm, loving, bosomy embrace that says “I’ll be here if anything bad happens, but I’ll try my hardest to make sure that it doesn’t”.
We all have those moments where we’re in need of that booby-hug, and there’s nothing wrong with being okay with that. You don’t create in a vacuum, so don’t feel like you have to go though all this on your own. Festivals and gatherings and events are ways to go get your booster shots. How’s your immunity going? Take this referral and go see Dr. E. W. Festival. Stat.