I’ve been giving heaps of thought to the process of creativity. We are all born with a certain level of creativity but getting it out of our minds and souls and onto paper or something more tangible seems to be the real issue.
Grand ideas, huge plans, lingering day dreams – these are all the sparks of our imagination. I’ve dallied for days on an idea; thinking, planning until the idea tires and I lay it to rest amongst a million other worn out thoughts.
So…what do you have rattling around in that ol’ brain of yours? Something fabulous? Does it shock you that your mind is the one that came up with the idea? Are you tickled with yourself? Are you excited? If so, you MUST follow through and get it out.
Taking an idea and turning it into action is powerful. So much satisfaction lies in the art of follow through. Not only do you get to see your idea become a reality, but you know that you’ve set a goal and accomplished it. You also open up or deepen the creative pathways in your brain, ensuring that your next idea will come quicker and more readily than that of a stymied artist.
There is argument to be made that it isn’t a lack of motivation that is keeping you from achieving your art but a lack of diligence; a lack of the “get up and go” that seems to have “got up and went.”
How do you harness this kernel of thought and expand it for the masses? How do you make it happen?
At some point the artist in you needs to be mothered, and since we get irritated with our own mothers when they nag us to clean our room or, God forbid, brush our teeth, it’s time to become our own mother and parent the artist within. That means adding a little discipline because children (and what are artists but children) need structure to grow. Take your artist by the lapels, sit them down and give them some rules.
Nothing will get written, photographed, painted, acted, recorded, etc. if the artist isn’t there to do it. Set a time, every day, rain or shine and show up. Don’t make excuses and don’t argue with your mother. If she says 30 minutes a day, expect yourself to stay there 30 minutes a day. I can pretty much guarantee that you will not produce an award winning piece during those 30 minutes but you will create the habit of art. Your body will form to your chair, your hand to the mouse, your eye to your easel and your brain will know that every day it needs to see the canvas or hear the 16-track. It will expect to work. Your art will become a habit and when something becomes a habit, it means you don’t have to think about it, you “Just Do It.” So SHOW UP.
When you set to create “something” and your goal is to have a finished product you need to establish up front what it is you consider “done.” If you want to write a song is the song complete when you’ve lifted pen from paper or when you’ve finished laying down the final vocal track? I’m not saying that you can’t start with one goal and end with another but make sure that you’ve completed the original goal, the minimum goal that you’ve originally planned. If you want to go above and beyond, have at it.
Since I have been equating this so far to artist as child, it will be no surprise when I mention “recess.” To many children it’s the most important part of their day. It’s the time when they can run and laugh and feel the wind whip in their hair as they jump down the slide. Through play you experience curiosity, exploration, imagination and freedom. Once your artist is at their station every day you need to reward them with play. Art, of any kind, is supposed to be fun. Sure you may be writing the most torrid and depressing drama of the 21st century, but it should still excite you and get your blood pumping. If you’re not having fun then stop what you’re doing for a moment and do something art-related that IS fun (please note that I said “art-related” – I had to add that in there so that you wouldn’t end up playing Angry Birds during recess). You should allow yourself to explore, with reckless abandon and without the carefully learned impulse control that stifles you. Play, play, play and allow yourself to see things young and new.
That bully that I mention is your inner critic who bitches and moans about every decision you make. That nasally little voice in the back of your head that tells you you’re not good enough or your ideas are stupid. That voice is an asshole! Shut him the Hell up and kick him out! Seriously. Whatever you have to do, make that critic leave. He’s very sneaky. You might not even hear him speaking. You might not even know that he’s here right now, whispering about your lame writing skills and your pathetic need to help people… Oh, hey! God dammit! Shut the fuck up, critic!!
When you start to self-doubt and have the urge to throw something across the room, it’s usually instigated by the Bully within. Shut him down. He’ll do you no favors and he’ll hinder your process. If necessary, I find it helps if you say out loud, “Go away, you asshole!” You don’t have to swear, but I do because I like hearing myself say “asshole.” You should try it. Like now.
So you’ve sat daily trying to make progress and you’ve allowed yourself the freedom, without harsh criticism, to play and explore. Hopefully you’ve made some progress…but you’re not done yet. How do you finish? Well, the answer to that is a simple one. Go back to your original game plan. What was your goal? Did you complete it? If the answer is “yes”, pat yourself on the back and do a happy dance. If the answer is “no” then what do you have left to accomplish to put this dream to bed? Make it simple. Make it concise. Make sure that your inner-critic-bully-asshole is nowhere to be found, especially now because it’ll be pulling you back from the finish line if it could. I asked my husband, a writer and musician, his secret to “finishing” and he responded, quite prophetically, “Add a deadline and a dollar sign.” If you’re not allowing yourself to follow your creative course until you reach a natural conclusion then add a deadline to your project. Set it in stone. Give yourself a reward if you finish. Although I believe that finishing is reward in and of itself I wouldn’t be adverse to rewarding myself with a massage or a shopping splurge as a “gold star” for my stick-to-it-iveness.
You’re done…but you’re not done. Yes, it happens. First, congratulate yourself that you finished. Revel in your awesomeness! However, if you continue to have nagging thoughts about your piece not being quite right then give yourself the opportunity to fix it.
I recently worked for about 3 weeks straight on a project with a medium that I had never tried before (the video CSI: North Pole). Being that I had a firm deadline (Christmas) I worked myself senseless into the wee hours of the morning on many nights simply because the clock was a-tickin’. Finally it was do or die time…December 23rd; I was on the cusp of missing Christmas all together. I finished around 7pm that night. It was now time to render the video, a process which took hours. I then uploaded it to youtube – a process which took more hours. End result? The video quality was NOT to my satisfaction. It rendered blurry and jagged and not at all like what I had seen on the movie software program. I was dismayed and bugged…but it was already up on youtube and facebook. I found myself explaining to people, “Well, it’s not really supposed to look like that…” and “It looks like there’s ghosting, that’s not what it’s supposed to look like.”
Christmas came and went and I was stilled bugged senseless. If I was going to devote all of that time and energy into something, it better be something I am proud of. So during the week prior to New Year’s I re-learned what I was doing and reworked it until I was happy with my product. Then I put it to bed.
So if you finish…but you’re still bugged…even if you think it’s going to be a ton of work, FIX IT. By fixing IT, you’ll be fixing YOU. And in the end, YOU are all that really matters.
Oops, time for Recess! Happy playtime, sugars!