It’s been a lazy, end-of-summer Saturday. It’s too hot to be outside, which means I’ve baked cookies, perused the Internet, done just a bit of thrift store shopping, and am now currently in a deep marathon of Project Runway. In between today’s activities, I’ve paged through this month’s (rather expansive) edition of Vogue. So, in case you weren’t paying attention, that’s shopping, fashion show watching, and fashion magazine reading. (And shamefully too little writing. It happens.) You may notice some patterns forming. There’s a relationship between art and fashion and creativity that I’m noticing and appreciating. I think there’s something fashion can teach us Creatives about the process of, well, creating.
Lately, I’ve been feeling very much like an American consumer, without actually consuming. I’ve spent too much time clicking through beautiful, expensive clothes online that I know I can’t afford. I’ve been drooling over five-inch heel pumps, leather clutches, ruffled dresses, gold watches. I’ve devoured pages of fashion blogs. I’ve somewhat shamefully clicked through several (several) photos on Instagram from users who post with the hash tag #NYFW. I’ve been into it. And for what? I’m not even sure, to be honest. I’ve always liked clothes and makeup and shoes, but I’ve never obsessed over things, never considered myself a connoisseur, and only within the last few years learned who Anna Wintour is. (I had, however, read The Devil Wears Prada with absolute glee in high school, long before the movie, and long before I understood to connect the crazy woman in the book with Ms. Wintour.)
There’s something more I’m getting at here. Fashion, as an art form—which I truly believe it is—has a way of recycling old things and making them new again, generally with an interesting, creative twist. While perusing the racks at my favorite thrift store today (Hi, Circle Thrift on Frankford Ave.), I was, as I always am, astonished at how a few pieces of worn-out, thrown-out clothes can be rehabbed simply by offering a new look. Thirty minutes and twelve dollars after I arrived, I left the store with a blazer and two new tops that the initial wearers had grown tired of. I came home and laid out my new/old stuff on my bed, and proceeded to ravage my closet for whole new looks. I was inspired enough to put new combinations together from the clothes already in my closet, that I wouldn’t have even seen had I not taken the time to really think about putting some new shit together.
As writers, there comes a time when we became frustrated with ourselves. We look at what we’ve got, our words, and we hate it. We desperately want something new, something fresh, something outside of ourselves, to make what we want to work, work. This will happen many times, over and over again. And I doubt it’s just writers. You could be a potter, a dancer, a painter, a trapeze artist: no matter what, you will become exasperated with yourself. You will become entirely frustrated with the limitations of your own creativity. You will want to be Anna Wintour. Or Martha Graham. Or Marilyn Robinson. Or whoever you idolize. You will want to be that person, and not be you.
My point here—and if you’ve stuck with me this far I applaud you, as this is seriously turning into a Saturday night ramble while I wait for a pot of water to boil—is this: just as fashion can be inventive through recycling, so can all of our own creative work. We’re creative for a reason. We have the power to write the sentences we want to write, using exactly the words we want to use. We have all of it, already imbedded in us. We just have to remember that, and find a new way to use it.
So from one writer to another: when the time comes, and it will, trust me, when you become frustrated with yourself, when you feel the bubbling of inability pushing at you, remember this: search a little harder, try a few more combinations, take another peek in the closet. I promise you, you’ll find what you’re looking for.