Dec 08, 2020
Welcome to our final part of our three part blog series The Three Biggest Obstacles Holding You Back From Following Your Creative Desires. If you missed Part One: I Don’t Have Time or Part Two: Imposter Syndrome then head over to read those articles first before you start this one.
Our last part looks at getting lost in big picture thinking. It is a very sneaky tactic that your mind employs to keep you on the ‘safe side’. It seems like you’re working on your creative project and doing the responsible thing of planning and organising, etc; and while planning does have it’s place, you can easily get lost down the rabbit hole of trying to figure it all out too soon.
There were a lot of concerns from participants at the 2019 Brisbane Writers Festival saying that they didn’t know which genre their writing fitted into before they had finished writing their book. This energy spent trying to figure out too much too soon depletes the energy you could be spending in continuing to write your book (or painting that painting, stitching that cross stitch, or sculpting that pot). American Novelist, Karen Thompson Walker (who ran the workshop ‘Leaning into Imagination’ at the 2019 Brisbane Writers Festival) advises to start with making your work, then follow where your work takes you and figure it out later. In her experience, to intellectualise about what kind of writer (or creative) you’re going to be before you’ve made a lot of work is a big waste of time. Walker believes that a lot of the time our taste in what we like to read, look at etc is not what kind of artist we are. She says to make lots of work, then stand back and see what styles and themes are coming out physically from the work – that’s where the real magic lies, beyond the intellectualised formulation. It’s only in the actual creation that you can become an artist. If you want to philosophise about your work or other people’s perhaps you’re better suited to being a philosopher or an art or book critic! The pull towards philosophising or over-planning is often your inner critic dressed up in new clothing, popping up again to keep you safe and avoid the risk of failure.
Later on that day, I also attended the ‘Inside the Creative Life’ panel and another important lesson came through – ‘bad art’ or non-fruitful art is not wasted, it gets us where we’re going. It’s often hard to believe that making non-fruitful work isn’t a waste of time, especially when we live in a society focused around toxic productivity. There are no no short-cuts on the journey to being an artist. You will have to make bad art. Every explorer starts off being a fool.
I’ll leave you with Thompson’s wise words “If you’re wondering about too much big picture stuff, you’re probably not closest to your work. When you’re in the work, you don’t get caught up in analysing the work or where it’s going as you’re too busy in making the work.”
So, come back to the process of making and take the weight of figuring it all out off the table. Connect with the process of what you’re doing, feel your fingers hitting the keyboard as you weave words over your computer screen building imaginary worlds. Feel the paintbrush spread the paint like butter onto your canvas. Enjoy the colours, the sounds and even any smells that are present as you create. Come back to your senses and enjoy the somatic experience of making without too much thinking involved. You can pick up your mind again when it comes to evaluating, editing and making decisions, but pure creativity comes from being in the moment and letting go of ‘getting it right’. That’s where your freedom lies and that’s how you’ll be able to follow your creative desires, moment by moment, step by step.
If you haven’t already, be sure check out Part One and Part Two of this blog post series for more ways to debunk those obstacles and make the most out of your creative practice. Good luck fellow creative explorer!
Gilbert’s Guide to Creative Self-Care: learn how to take care of yourself as a creative.
Five Inspired Quotes to Quell Your Creative Struggles: inspo for when you need a little nudge.
Kidding Around… For Creativity’s Sake: jump back on the bike and make like a child.