Using What You’ve Got on Hand
Sometimes, to make dinner, we “iron chef it.” We pull out all the pieces and parts of ingredients from the fridge, freezer, and cupboards, look at what we’ve got, and invent. Surprisingly, these meals always turn out great, even though they’d sound gross. (Like a stir fry made from leftover Thai food, old rice, old veggies, some eggs, and some extra sauces of various sorts. Surprisingly delicious and impossible to replicate.)
When it comes to your art, at least all of the visual arts, it’s tempting to seek out new supplies in order to inspire new projects. Many writers end up with considerably large collections of blank notebooks and new pens or pencils, for example. More than once, I’ve come home with a pen or paint color that I already own because I did not first assess what supplies I actually have in my quest for a fresh start. (Which you know from “Aa: allure,” I don’t really believe in anyway.)
To appreciate what you already have, to use up pieces and parts of things, and to give yourself a limitation to spark invention: use only what you already have on hand.
Constrain yourself to the supplies you have right now and see what you can make from what you’ve got. Using neglected supplies makes room for new ones, and it pushes you out of familiar habits, if only for a few days of practice. If you weren’t using these supplies anyway, it really doesn’t matter if you don’t love what you create, but you might come into a new idea.
The most inspiring example of limiting your materials in order to ignite invention is here: Embrace the Shake. Phil Hansen creates art from the simplest means, like bananas and a push pin.
As if it were your kitchen, go to your work space and pull out all the scraps, pieces, and remnants, then stand back and assess. How might something be used differently? What might function better in a totally different form?
What if you used crimson where you thought you’d use cerulean blue? What if you turned some scraps into a collage and create an illuminated letter to start the story you’ve been working on? Could that dribble of spray paint work on college-ruled notebook paper? What if you cut up your story drafts and turned them into ribbon-adorned bookmarks?
When you have time to try it, let me know how it goes. Maybe your flash fiction piece written on a tower of paper cups finds a home in an art gallery! I’d love to hear about what you invent.