You can learn creative process
Much has been written about fear and creativity, how to recognize it, how to confront it, how to overcome it. I have spent the last 2 years reading every book on creativity I can get my hands on in an effort to understand how we humans go about creating art. It has been a fascinating study, one that has shaped the way I approach art-making.
But little has been said about the actual process of bringing concept to reality, creative process. Exactly how to maintain strength, determination, and the sheer will necessary to see it through to the end.
Most of us do get started it seems. Unfinished projects are a testimony to our desire to make and create. Often times, though, our projects never come to completion. Why is that the case? Do we get bored, do we give up, do we lose our way.
All of these things happen I am sure, not to mention the will to survive kicks in often enough and the desire to create takes 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place to providing for our family, caring for our loved ones, or just needing rest from the other two.
Somewhere along the line, I decided that being creative was also a matter of survival and I to give it the attention it was begging for. The desire to make meaningful, emotive, art became an integral part of me, of who I am. Life and art became inseparable.
That does not, however, mean that art-making became a comfortable process, nor is it now. But I became comfortable with not feeling comfortable if you catch my drift. Perhaps it is better said by David Bayles and Ted Orland in ‘Art and Fear.’
“Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending. The risks are obvious: you may never get to the end of the sentence at all – or having gotten there, you may not have said anything. This is probably not a good idea in public speaking, but it’s an excellent idea in making art. Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.”
There it is, the answer to why we stop … uncertainty. These all-encompassing questions roll around in our heads until we come to a complete stop – “Isn’t this a waste of time? Will I ever manage to finish it? Will I ever get paid for my creativity? Shouldn’t I be making money instead?” I say blow right past all that and make art anyway. You will thank me later. Because art making has its own rewards apart from income and recognition. Creative process is progress, any way you go about it.
But the question still remains, how does one get from concept to reality? Are there secrets to learning creative process? Are they only available for the super talented? NO! It is a matter of logical planning. We must step out of our creative brains and think methodically. We must employ life skills to the making of art. What do I mean by that?
Brainstorm – For most of us this is not a problem. We have literally hundreds of ideas that arrive via inspiration. Pick the one that speaks the loudest and shows up numerous times in different ways. This could be anything from the type of painting you want to paint to a full blow photographic series. Settle in with it. Imagine it as a finished product. Do you love it? Then take it to the next level.
Get Real – What would it take to bring your concept to completion? Do you have the funds, the space, the tools. If you don’t have these yet, is there a way to get them. Just because they are not readily available does not make it impossible. Make a plan, be proactive, get what you need. For example, I know of a young man named Justin Kinney who loves to paint in oils but did not have studio space. He got involved in a local art community center and taught classes. The owners became aware of his need and offered him the use of their space while no classes were being held. He then partnered with a local chef to host pop-up gallery/ dinner shows. Isn’t that awesome? I must also mention here, that time should not be considered an issue. Once passion for your project takes over, you will find the time.
Plan Detailed Action Steps – Make a list of the things you need to do to accomplish your goal. Start with the big picture then break it down into detailed steps. Give that action plan due dates and a daily schedule. Give yourself steps that you can execute in 15 mins and some that take several hours. Allow flexibility. (I love using Trello for this. It allows me to move my due dates or change my daily schedule but still keeps me accountable. Paper planning and journaling are fine but in the end, you must be able to find your list!)
Execute – Get to work! With a plan that has things you can work on that take just a few minutes, you can work on your project daily. And you will never come to the work table and think “What was I supposed to do?” Even if you don’t feel energetic or particularly creative you will always have a little something on your list to keep you moving forward.
Allow for Uncertainty – Again I say, be flexible. Inspiration has a way of building upon itself. If you start out wanting to paint like Rembrandt and it’s looking more like Van Gogh, try running with it. Does it make you happy? Are you excited? It’s hard to be either of those things if your vision is too strictly constrained. Sara Tasker recently said, “… you can’t get anywhere by doing what everyone else is doing. Somewhere, at some point in the process, the people who have truly made it have done so by carving their own path, finding their own unique style and taking creative risks that they weren’t sure were going to turn out alright.”
This is where the turning point will be. If you allow for that uncertainty to find it’s own voice, amazing things will happen. Again I quote Bayles and Orland, ‘… you need to give yourself room to respond authentically, both to you and your subject matter and to your materials. Art happens between you and something – a subject, an idea, a technique – and both you and that something needs to be free to move.”
Leave a Thread – You are hard at work, you are close to completion, and before you can finish your heart is already off on another artistic adventure. And that’s as it should be! One passion feeds another and another until you can look back at a full body of work that has cohesion and purpose. That is not to say you should abandon your first project. Work at it to satisfaction, produce something tangible. Then move on. Resist the desire to leave it before you can see the reward for your hard work. Then you can confidently move forward instead of away.
Celebrate – Rejoice! You have worked hard and accomplished much! This is a crucial last step that is often forgotten. Give yourself permission to love what you have done, to smile, to share it with others. Don’t give in to the ‘it’s never good enough’ mentality. Take pride and have joy in your accomplishment!
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