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Category: Creation

Starting Out vs. Starting Again, a Kind of Secret

Starting Out vs. Starting Again, a Kind of Secret

It’s sort of secret because it’s not talked about much. Artists who are just beginning to learn how to do what they want to do usually have periods of elation and frustration as they practice and discover. The funny—or scary?—thing is that experienced artists still have those phases when they try new directions.

Novelists, painters, musicians: if they’re beginning a new book, series, album, go through that push and pull of feelings, too, even though they might have done it many times.

The fear of the unknown isn’t just fear of failure. It’s primal. Creating truly new things than you’ve made before puts us into a weird and vulnerable state. That’s okay to feel, it’s normal. Just something to be aware of, that we all have those stages of growth. If we’re lucky—and willing to expose ourselves all over again.

The New Thing, and Who Knows What That Is?

The New Thing, and Who Knows What That Is?

Now and then, if you make art, you probably get to a point where you’re over the type of thing you’ve been making. Maybe you think you’ve said everything you could. Sometimes you’re bored—if it’s that, you probably should stick with that thing a bit longer.

Being bored, artistically, is the genesis of a thousand new possibilities. Boredom in general is a rare commodity these days, with endless distraction and tools available.

But hang on. Wait a while. Keep making. Then you may find you still have things to say with your current practice. If not, dream. Think. Wonder. Something will strike you, and offer the next compass point.

I realize that could come off like a platitude. I mean it, though! We contain myriad potential. There’s more in there. We can’t always get out of our own way quickly, but it’s in there to find.

There’s Always So Much More to Say Looking Back

There’s Always So Much More to Say Looking Back

I keep thinking of ways to improve posts days (or more) after I publish them. They’re often incomplete. I feel this way about the art itself, of course. The images are always off in some way I can see to fix.

But there’s only so much time. You can’t just perfect a piece over and over. You have to finish things, or you’re stuck in the same place. You never get better at one thing, and you never fully move on to the next thing. It’s a limbo of perfectionism, a mania of improvement that leaves you and work static.

There are would-be perfectionist artists out there. Sometimes they produce the thing they’ve been perfecting in the studio, sometimes for years. Sometimes they’re beautiful.

Often, though, they’re stiff. There’s not as much life in them as less polished works. Life is movement, and it’s sometimes messy. But it’s got power and feeling. I think some of that can get drained away if you spend a lot of time making a thing as perfect as it can be.

And I’m not saying to go fast. I’m not advocating rushing anything into being. Life itself is slow, after all. Take some time to make the work. But perfection shouldn’t be the goal.

I don’t need perfect things. I need life.

Getting Frustrated Is Only Half the Battle

Getting Frustrated Is Only Half the Battle

I spent some time trying to figure out why my Firefox extensions suddenly stopped working. I tried endless permutations of wi-fi, browser/computer restarts, until finally searching and finding I’m not alone. So now I wait for the fix.

Frustration is a common emotion in both internet work (and time-wasting) and art. The thing you’re working on doesn’t quite measure up to your vision. The idea doesn’t work as well in reality as it did in your head.

It is good to recognize that frustration is normal and we all feel it sometimes. It can be motivation to do something else, or work on the problem. But you do have to keep working on the thing, until it’s finally finished. Art bugs get worked out in process. Or not. At that finishing point, maybe the frustration is still there, but you can move on. Getting caught in endless frustration leads to nothing. Let it alone in the bug fix queue and keep moving.

Scheduling the Work, When Routine Isn’t Enough

Scheduling the Work, When Routine Isn’t Enough

It’s a tricky business. While I’m in favor of a daily routine practice, there are plenty of times a general guideline of “doing your work” isn’t getting you to the proverbial drawing table.

Taking matters out of your conscious mind’s hands, schedule that time. 20 minutes is a good starter time you can build from.

The Primary Audience Is You, but Art Works Better With an Audience > 1

The Primary Audience Is You, but Art Works Better With an Audience > 1

I don’t like a lot of my individual things. I do tend to like my work in the aggregate, when I think of it or see it laid out together. But I’m my own worst critic. Sometimes I’m my only critic, because I’m the only one who’s seen the thing I made. This is normal, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to release everything up front.

But art never seen by any non-its-creator is incomplete. Art requires a second participant to be fully realized, to be whole. I think art is—in addition to being essentially human—a group activity when it’s “completed.” That is, once you’re done making a work, someone(s) else must experience it to finish it.

I know this is a bit convoluted. It seems like double talk. But as valuable as it can be to simply create on your own, your work is left unfinished until another person engages their senses with it.

Falling Down and Quick Little Victories

Falling Down and Quick Little Victories

It’s not pretty, this idea you should try to fail. Our culture in the U.S. in particular hammers the meme they everyone should desire materialistic success. It’s pervasive. We’re urged to be ambitious and driven, that modest desires aren’t enough, that hard work is the key to success. And so, get used to failing, embrace failing! You’ll find success quicker, goes the trope.

But I think that loses sight of what made us want to try at all. Failure isn’t fun.

I agree it’s important to try again, but not just because you weren’t successful. More so because it’s both not a big deal to fail, and because success comes in bits, almost never all at once, in blinding flashes of glory. The glory is piecemeal, the gilding takes years to apply, the lightning builds on itself until it seems like it’s always been intense.

Little victories are sometimes all you need. If you love creating, what matters is that you have enough ambition to continue. What matters is that you start again if you fall. The path is still where you spend all your time. Not the pedestal or the victory stage.

The Littlest Adventures Come Back to Feed Your Imagination

The Littlest Adventures Come Back to Feed Your Imagination

Exploring and visiting new places is wonderful fuel for creative fires. Today, we spent some time in a completely new neighborhood, seeing what shops were around and what various apartment buildings looked like.

Coming back home, I was tired, but felt like I’d done some questing, and had new supplies and jewels of ideas to make stuff with.

Don’t discount a simple trip to a new neighborhood.

You Don’t Have to Be a Self-Obsessed Recluse to Work Here, but It Helps

You Don’t Have to Be a Self-Obsessed Recluse to Work Here, but It Helps

Enthusiasm. You need it. It’s the thing that will keep you working when everyone else says you should stop.

Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of John Oliver segments, lately. The thing is, to be in love with your work is a lot of fun, and can encourage you through some dark times. Just getting yourself to sit down and make the things can be hard, and it’s the enthusiasm you have for it that can get you started. And once you’re started, you can keep going. It might take a long time to get to where you love it, but you should at least feel an affection for the stuff you make, otherwise it’s just the Pit of Despair from which you shouldn’t even think about trying to escape.

You don’t have to be your own biggest fan. But you ought to be a fan.