Have you ever thought about why you create things? I’ve talked about this a little bit: I love the process, I love the materials, the color, the texture, there’s inspiration for me in the act of making. But I know other people are driven by the goal of a finished product, and others are caught up in the moment. Here’s a summary of categories I identified once upon a time:
Practical – you need something, so you make it. Example – sweater, scarf, dress, wedding gift, kid school project….
Problem Solver – “I wonder if I could…” It can also be a practical situation, but maybe you can’t find a pattern you like, or are out of the materials you need.
Pure Joy – inspiration catches you and you can’t stop until you have some kind of visual or physical representation of what’s in your head.
Not that I think you have to be just one type, I think it’s common to be a blend of Practical and Problem Solver, for example. But these are short definitions, so let’s look at them a little closer.
Practical. The practical creative usually has a plan in mind. “I need something interesting to go with [outfit for special event]. Hmmmm, I have knowledge and skill in [craft], I just need materials. I will search for a pattern, buy the materials, and make the item.” Someone who is purely practical is not really an impulse stash-buyer. They may have an assortment of supplies left from other projects (spanning multiple types of crafts), so they can be a go-to person if someone else needs something to finish a project, but they won’t necessarily be drawn to the button aisle, for example, if they’re working on a scrapbook. I think they also tend to learn techniques as they need to, in order to accomplish a stitch pattern, for example, but they tend to stick to a familiar medium. Knitters may venture into crochet, but not often into quilling. Practical creators almost always finish their projects, because what’s the point if you don’t?
Problem Solver. Like I said above, Problem Solvers are, by nature, practical. “I need something interesting to go with [outfit for special event], but I can’t find a pattern or material I like. Hmmmmm, I have knowledge and skill and the internet, I wonder if I could combine crafts/mix materials/figure out a new way to make the item.” Problem Solvers are more likely to buy stash “in case I need it”. Their pattern libraries will be a little more eclectic, and they’ll have boxes of ribbon, beads in all sizes and finishes, yarn, scrapbook papers, fabric (even if they don’t sew) – anything they saw once that they thought they might need. What sets them apart from the others, is that they are process-driven. There’s a puzzle to be solved – whatever it is. However, Problem Solvers also tend to have UFOs (Unfinished Objects), because they get an idea or encounter a puzzle, they start working on it, and they either run out of time or hit a frustrating roadblock; they put the project down and turn to something else. When the process becomes unsatisfying or frustrating, they are likely to give up on it. But because of their exposure to multiple techniques, they tend to know a little (or a lot) about many different subjects.
To me, there is a definite difference between a Practical Problem Solver (which I put solidly in the Practical camp above) and the Process (or Puzzle) Problem Solver. I find that I am mostly a Puzzle Problem Solver. I am compelled to figure something out (a stitch, a decrease, a join, a mitered corner…), and I may have to begin an item in order to really solve (or prove that I’ve solved) the puzzle. But I am in no way compelled to finish the item once I’ve in some way mastered the puzzle. Prime example – I saw an idea for a “celtic knot” crochet (photo above), I had to figure out how to make it, I probably at one time had an intention of making something with a bunch of these. Very popular post on my blog. Nothing more came of it for me once I solved the problem, because I was satisfied.
Pure Joy. Pure Joy people are very much like my sweet friend April. She engages in crafts that make her happy. She doesn’t necessarily have a goal or finished project in mind. She sees a blank page and a box of crayons and begins coloring. My daughter embodies this in her writing. It’s a different type of compulsion, one free of deadlines or solutions, focused instead on the creative act itself. The satisfaction comes from the activity instead of the solution or the finished product.
Thoughts? Agree, disagree? What kind of creative are you?