Saturday, 28 September 2013

on rabbit holes and creative process

Inside a Japanese woodblock print studio. Total immersion in the process. Photo by Kylie Budge (circa 2003)

 A fellow researcher, Melonie Fullick (@qui_oui) and I have been chatting about rabbit holes and the PhD process on Twitter lately. This is because we both feel like we travel down somewhere deep in apsects of our research work, and it feels like a solo place where we can't think about other things. We just have to tunnel down like a rabbit and do our thing there for a while until we're ready to come back up. Melonie even wrote a blog post about it yesterday. She describes the process and feeling well, I think.

As I read her post this morning over breakfast it got me thinking about the creative process and how it has similar rabbit hole qualities. You know that feeling, when things are going well with a project and you forget to eat and can't bear to stop. Hours and hours can pass by without you noticing. Psychologists call this 'flow', the idea where immersion in creating is so deep that time seems to stop for the person involved. They also talk about it being a single-minded immersion. Which led me to the rabbit hole analogy. It's a similar idea.

I was thinking about this quality of single-mindedness the other night as I watched Jennifer Byrne interview Elizabeth Gilbert on the ABC. Elizabeth was talking about the process of writing and creating her new work of fiction, The Signature of all Things, a massive 512 page story set in the early 1800s. When she spoke about writing this book and bringing the story to life I was struck by the details, the collecting and sorting and researching and weaving of all the tiny minutiae that make up a fantastic story (and if Jennifer's reading of it is anything to go by, it will be great. The book will be released next week). Surely creating something like this requires at least one rabbit hole? Maybe more?

And yesterday I read Lucy Feagins interview with the Sydney artist Cressida Campbell on The Design Files. I've always admired Cressida's prints so was really excited to see this interview. In it she talks about her process. One thing that struck me is she said that while a small work can take her 2 weeks to make, a larger work can take up to 4 months. And Cressida admitted she usually only works on creating one print at a time. A great example of the rabbit hole! Check out the article with Sean Fennessy's beauitful photography showcasing Cressida's studio.

I wonder, do you experience the rabbit hole feeling when creating? Or something else entirely?


  1. Kylie, thank you for the absolutely lovely links in this post. I enjoyed looking through Cressida Campbell's work and listened to Liz Gilbert practically holding my breath.
    Perhaps all of us are dwelling in our Rabbit Holes? I know that when I get out of my hole I feel at a loss.

    1. Oh I'm so glad you enjoyed them Priya. Yes there is that feeling of finding one's feet again and reconnecting with the world isn't there (when climbing out of the rabbit hole)?