It’s easy to forget that our creativity needs practice. We often take artistic abilities for granted, because it’s just “been there” since we were children. Most of us are artists because it comes naturally. Sure we might have to learn discipline about the business aspects, but the art! Hey, that’s the fun part! That’s eeeeasy.
Until you hit a block. Then you spend each day staring at an empty screen or a blank canvas, cursing at the white space, convinced your career is over. The crying. The despair. Or maybe that’s just me.
Last week during a particularly difficult Krav Maga class, a new guy (a cop actually), stopped participating in class and took to crawling on the asphalt outside the back door to cool off and keep from vomiting. At least he had a good attitude about it. The same thing happened to another new guy the week before.
I remember feeling that way during my first class. It was immediately apparent that I was not as fit as I thought I was. The only reason I didn’t bow out after 20 minutes, gasping for breath, is because I was too embarrassed to admit that (although I was young and thin) I was totally out of shape. I felt like I’d been in a car accident and had the flu for days afterwards. And this went on for weeks.
Part of the reason I feel so committed now is because I’m terrified of falling back into that woeful place again.
The same thing happens with my creativity. Sometimes I get blocked for so long that my ability seems almost atrophied. I can’t paint, I can’t write. All my ideas are listless, weak. I forget how to push myself through a process I should know how to do better than anything else in my life.
When I’m working consistently and have numerous paintings in process all around my studio, it seems so easy to remain in that space. More than that, my creativity blooms.
It requires more than staying inside my studio, however. I have to go outside myself to find additional input. Otherwise my creative mind will spin endlessly within itself, never absorbing anything new to work with. I imagine it to be like those NASA pictures of galaxies consuming other galaxies. We have to pick up stimulation out there in the universe to sustain ourselves.
I think that’s why I require so much traveling. It causes a “reset” of everything I know, forcing me to experience new places, new people, finding my way around, taking in new scenery. Plenty of information for downloading, processing, and turning into art.
Inspiration comes in many forms, and certainly differs for all of us, just as our art is (hopefully) a unique reflection of our individual choices. Sometimes we just need to take a walk and look at the trees. Sometimes a good book provides plenty of imagery and new life.
To keep ourselves creatively fit, we must find inspiration that works for us, and consistently commit to it. It’s part of our job. I think we have a tendency to feel guilty about this aspect of our work. It’s fun, therefore it’s not productive. Or something. We are a society that lives on distraction, and as artists, we often confuse inspiration with procrastination. They are not the same. Engaging in productive inspiration is absolutely necessary for our survival. If we don’t take data in, we have nothing to put back out.
It’s certainly a benefit of our chosen paths. We have excellent justification for doing the things we love. It’s a honor to do art. Of course it can be backbreaking, emotionally-straining, and mentally exhausting. Many of us, at some point or another, cannot withstand the internal pressure.
We just have to stay in shape. We need to be strong and capable to take advantage of the opportunities that come our way. If we’re not prepared, life will pass us by.
Hopefully it won’t find us clinging to the asphalt.
—Written by Shayla Maddox for Art & Musings