Making Art is Not a Linear Process
That feeling of demotivation or lack of inspiration, perilous for every endeavour, but especially in making art, as you must will something in to being that did not exist before. To create something that no one much cares whether you do or you don't. As plainly stated in Art and Fear (2001) by David Bayles and Ted Orland. The book's healthy dose of pessimism surrounding the illusions artists often tell themselves, that no-one quite understands what they make, or that their unique 'style' or vision hasn't been 'discovered' for its inherent genius 'yet', bring both a sense of disappointment and comfort, as we plod forward with each passing month and year, never to admit defeat from this strange and rather thankless affair of making art.
If I really think about it, I can probably think of many reasons why the continuation of these creative pursuits remain a mystery, that it surely would have been easier to just quit and head down a different path, but alas I find myself still here in somewhat of a rather lonely vocation of being an artist.
We wait and at times indulge in procrastination or the Thursday afternoons we allow ourselves to relax with a new documentary hoping that it will ignite some new ideas and push us once more in to action, to put pencil to paper or brush to canvas that would inevitably remind us of the reason we do not and cannot quit. We stop making...temporarily perhaps, but quit no, because the little irresistible glimpse of inspiration when it does rear its glorious head is so tantalising in the moment of arrival is all too delicious to disregard for long.
The strange thing about the struggle to reach that point of inspiration or to finally make something is, ironically it was probably our most natural and favourite thing to do as children. The process is quite cunning in adulthood. I gave it my all, and it thanked me with some good works, prizes and monetary opportunities, although as I grew older and remain with this old friend I call 'my art practice', at times it has its way with me taking my joy away as quickly as it gave it. How might you ask can a simple thing as creating an artwork steal joy? Afterall, it is passion that drives us to do it in the first place.
We go to the art shop, we marvel at the paper textures, the canvasses, the sketchbook selection, the tubes of colour calling out to be purchased. Leaving the shop with a bag full of goodies we feel elated, full of purpose because we have not abandoned our love of making art. We remain faithful to the endeavour, to make, to create, to get messy and discover what lies dormant inside of us.
We set foot back inside our studio, wherever that may be for us. We lay out our new materials with a smile only to run head-first into a wall. As Steven Pressfield says in the War of Art, the dreaded resistance has hit us, and while Pressfield's words has saved me on many occasions and will again, I often find myself lost in a whole host of questions. What is the point of this? What is the meaning of making this thing? Is it my style? Who is it for? Is it commercial enough? Should I make something different? The feeling runs deep and is quite dangerous to the artist's spirit and ability to create.
These questions create more resistance and increase the inability to act. Frozen in thought and anxiety about the purpose of making anything is something our inner child never would never have had to contend with. Paralysed by thought and doubting questions, the creative process is stunted. To shake them we must do whatever we can to re-produce again, whether it is drawing whilst completely disregarding our thoughts no matter how invasive they are, writing our anxieties out in a journal, listening to or re-reading the War of Art and trying again.
Making art is certainly not a linear process, because each attempt is full of its own dance between conviction, inspiration, doubts, questions or elation. It can last an hour or a week, but the moment we break though it by making something, anything, hopefully it ignites a new idea to take us to the next phase, our next high point of just feeling as though we have slayed the dragon once more. We will have survived the routine ebs and flows of making. We will have ignored the doubts enough, summoned our inner child enough, satisfied the muses enough. We will have managed not to quit - once again. That takes courage and we should celebrate that.