Updated: Sep 3, 2021
Do you know that unsettled feeling you get when you walk through an empty parkade or hotel hallway? It’s a solitary feeling that seems strange and a bit spooky. If you’re experiencing the feeling, you are likely in a liminal space. The term “liminal spaces” refers to places between destinations that aren’t meant to be existed in as much as passed through (betterhelp.com). Some examples of physical liminal spaces include stairwells, elevators, airports, and streets. Liminal spaces can also be mental states associated with transition such as divorce or starting a new job. An artist beginning the challenge of creating something enters into a liminal mindset. The uneasy feeling associated with liminal spaces is caused by the uncertainty of what is to come when you cross into a new space.
Working on building my creative business has made me feel a bit “in-between” with transition lately. I waiver back and forth between days of feeling excited and optimistic to days of worry about accomplishing goals and increasing my income. My daughter introduced me to the theory of liminal spaces which led me to research the concept and how it can affect the creative mindset.
Liminal space is an in-between space. The word liminal comes from the Latin word “threshold”. It is the space when you are ‘on the verge’ of something new: you are between ‘what was’ and ‘what will be’. You are waiting and not knowing about what will come (helpfulprofessor.com). The concept was first introduced in 1909 by the ethnologist Arnold van Gennep, in his work Les Rites de Passage. In 1960, when it was translated into English and further developed by anthropologist Victor Turner, the idea of ‘liminality’ became more popular.
Human beings are always managing transitions – day turning to night, the changing seasons, and the process of aging are just a few. As an artist and designer who is constantly working to solve creative problems, I believe it is important to embrace the discomfort of entering the unknown. Starting a new project or stage of a career should be viewed as a positive step forward for growth. Even though liminality can sometimes take us off guard or cause us to be afraid of the unknown, it is often the best opportunity to try a new approach and experiment with ideas and problem-solving strategies. By welcoming transitions and being open to the emotions they bring, creatives can experience great inspiration during periods of liminality.
A helpful way to manage transitions and the feelings that come with them is to be aware of what is happening and keep an open mind. It can be difficult to let go of the “expected” response and old patterns of behaviour, especially when we feel a pressure to perform and succeed. That pressure kills creativity. Remaining open to trying new things and finding alternatives to resolving problems is the root of finding inspiration. In times of crisis and creative block, I remind myself to remember back to my childhood when I was less inhibited and controlled by expectations. Tapping into the mindset of that unrestrained time of imagination and risk taking can help shift me into a freer thought process.
Because I am an artist, I have become more comfortable putting myself out there emotionally. Expressing my ideas through my artwork can make me feel vulnerable and exposed, but I am grateful to be resilient and open to feedback and constructive criticism. The creative practice is full of risks and rewards. My creative career has prepared me to manage times of transition and liminality. There are many times in my life I have been on the “verge of something new”. So, for now, I am going to continue jumping into new liminal experiences with an open mind to manage the uncertainty. I am hopeful this new chapter in my life will lead me to a magical new place in my creative journey.
SOURCES AND FURTHER READING:
Understanding How Liminal Space Is Different From Other Places
By: Julia Thomas, March19, 2021
What is Liminal Space – 4 Key Features of Liminality
By: Christ Drew, PhD, Ocotber 14,2019
The Crisis of Creativity: Liminality and the Creative Grown-up
Emman Govan and Deborah Munt, October, 2003