Today in addition to the collage of the day,

I want to show you the book I’ve already started altering for my next collage series—

For two reasons:

 1- Some parts of the above collage came out of this very book (at least one of the quotes, and the leaf pictures—probably tea leaves, because the book now called “Taking Time” was formerly “Taking Time for Tea.” I included the other collage pictures from elsewhere because they seem to fit with the Thoreau quote, representing varied “regions,” or even worlds.

Since I plan to use mixed media in this volume, I needed to remove pages to give room for the extra bulk that will create. As I did, words and images attracted my attention and told me they’d make good “stash” for future projects.

2- I want to get another project going BEFORE I finish the one I’m actively engaged in.

Does that sound like a “crazy idea”? Stick with me. There’s purpose in this madness.

It’s true that starting several projects when you’re already doing one, or trying to carry on ten or fifteen already-begun projects at the same time can just end you up in a cluttered, chaotic workspace and confused state of mind—with maybe nothing getting finished! Yet a dismal thing often happens if you don’t line up some new creative effort before you finish the old.

Writers often report that the completion of a book they’ve been working on for months or years feels strangely like “a kind of death.” What often confronts them, instead of a feeling of freedom to start fresh on something new, is a great, big mental chasm with a formidable barrier labeled, “Dead End!”

A similar thing happens to artists. Once the project or series is finished, suddenly the mind seems to go as blank as the new canvas or page in front of the face and the artist feels lost and without purpose.

Some clever creatives have figured out a preventive to use before reaching that point:

Start thinking ahead:

Just take time now and then to brainstorm ideas and note them in a notebook or file, or write short prompt cards and place them in some handy receptacle.

Daydream, like Thoreau says in the collage above: “Direct your mind inward, and you’ll find a thousand regions of your mind, yet undiscovered. Travel them.”

Go through junk mail or magazines and tear or cut out “new” tidbits that catch your fancy: faces, objects, words, colors, textures, whatever. Separate the ones that “grab you” most, to consider further in the near future.

Rifle through the stash you already have and see what “grabs your heart” there.

“Break” a blank page or two by slapping some gesso or paint or random scraps of texture on them, as I did in the former “tea” book.

From all of the ideas this activity has conjured, select one, definite or vague, and gather materials and components into a container specifically for that.


Some creatives (wisely) like to do the above in two phases,

1) the brainstorming or idea gathering preliminary, and

2) starting some initial “work” (play) in the narrowed-down project.

All this helps prevent the great blank page or canvas, and writer’s block or artist’s dead end. I think it could be very helpful in just about any area of human endeavor.


Previous posts in this series:

Day 1 Mini Collage and 31-Days Introduction

Day 2 Collage: Nothing-But-Junk Fish

Day 3 Collage: What Grabs Your Heart?

Day 4 Collage: Why I Chose to do this 31 Days–Really

Day 5 Collages: On Being Transparent

Day 6 Collage: Salute to Birds and Dragonflies

Day 7 Collage: Got it Made in the Shade

Collage Day 8: Three Good Children’s Books to Inform Our Lives

Day 9 Collage: Smiles, Smiles (What Makes You Smile?)

Day 10 Collage: Which Way is Out?

Day 11 Collage: Rugged Rocks or Rugs?

Day 12 (non-junk-mail)  Collage: “Be Like the Bird…”

Lovelights and Blues (Day 13 Collage)

Day 14 Collage: “Fleur de Free” (Extended Cut Shape Technique)

Day 15 Collage: The Beauty of Serenity

Day 16: Two Collages, Just for the Enjoyment

Day 17 Collage Talk: “Only Words”

Day 18 Collage: Broken Hearts Can Soar

Day 19 Collage: Collage as Therapy? (Plus Cut-and-Fold-Back Technique)

Day 20 Collage: A Beautiful Ride

Day 21 Collage: Birds in Lush Growth

Day 22 Collage: Hope

8 thoughts on “Collage Day 23: Start Something New Before Finishing the Now

  1. I knew there would be a void as I neared the end of 23 years of homeschooling and child rearing and dreading the empty nest syndrome I began taking classes with the idea of a new and different career, so this principle of starting the new before the end of the old can be applied in many different ways. I do try to have a warp started for the next project before I finish weaving the old–I have learned that the empty loom staring at me really does feel like a dead end.
    On another note, I wonder if this collage was done in anticipation of your silent retreat or after, because it speaks well of that sort of experience.

    P.S. I thought at one point, “I’d like to try a silent retreat, maybe I could go with Sylvia sometime”…and then I laughed and laughed–how could we be together and silent?

    1. I’ve been thinking the same thing, Laurie: how this principle can apply in so many ways.
      When my nest was about to empty, I planned finally to fly to Florida to visit my bro. You did me one better and opened up a whole wide future. Although I did have the hope and intent of more travel after that.
      No, the collage was done merely in the way I described above. But God sets things up ahead of time, even in the things we ourselves do. This turns out to be truer still in the next blog post and its collage, done weeks ago!
      In reply to your PS. We would keep silent. We really would! (Until the time was up. 😉 ) It’s amazing, but a lot of women at these silent retreats are actually quite talkative in their everyday lives. The mutuality is a kind of accountability in itself, and there’s also the sense that we are being silent not only for our own good, but also for the good of others. Plus, I suppose, if we did silent retreats more often, we might put the reins on more of our mouth runaway! Silence is a practice we don’t practice enough—and I often think, with a cringe, of the verse that says, “Where words are many, sin is not absent.” Ouch!

  2. Sylvie, I’m following your series here and there as I can. A lot going on for me at present, including caring for a very sick dog. When are you going on you retreat? Is this the same place that you had told me about when I was planning on Iona? I’ve been praying about one I learned about in preparation for Advent. Not sure the timing will work.
    Love this series you are doing!!

    1. Hi Lynni! Thanks for your kind encouragement. I hope your poor dog gets well soon.
      I went on the retreat just this past weekend, a whole different venue and format from the previous one, and my next post is about it! 🙂
      Email me and let me know where and when your Advent prep one is–when you get a chance. And also, when you get a chance, I have been very curious about Iona…

  3. What came to mind while reading your post is how I began a year or so ago to collect the ingredients for the recipe I was planning to make for supper. After lunch I would grab the recipe, go to the pantry and then group the refrigerated items together on one shelf in the fridge. Having done this and seeing the items as I pass through the kitchen gives me a sense of having already begun the meal. Whenever I’m tired and it’s time to cook supper it’s amazing how much less daunting it seems.

    1. Yes, that does seem to be the same principle in action, Katie.—and a good idea! In fact, you inspired me to do a little of this kind of prepping along the way for tonight’s supper. Thanks!

  4. Sylvia- I love this post for so many reasons…collage, re-purposed book for mixed-media, how to overcome a creative block, using junk mail and magazine tear sheets…you’re speaking my love language! Also I used this technique today in my basement adventure…I’m sorting books and organizing stuff…and the need to freshen up the basement with color called to me, so I painted a wall in the basement, which will actually motivate me to keep sorting and organizing, because now it is a cheerful, fresh room in the hue of turquoise…it feels like I’m at a beach house in my basement. It was fun giving into to creative impulses and bursts of finding abundance in the the “pantry” of my basement…lots of collage fodder down there!

    1. Funny how your paint job and its color hue have made you feel like you’re at a beach house. I painted my “serenity room” (where I happen to be sitting right now) two shades of blue, one of which I’d describe as a “nautical” or “marine blue.” The lighter blue on the other three walls and the ceiling (yes, I did that, even though my husband thought it seemed a little “crazy”) looks like sky. So I often feel like I’m at the water’s edge somewhere, too! I told my son this and he laughed and said, “We’ll have to bring you a bunch of shells to decorate it.”

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