By Barbara Bowen | Updated June 15, 2018
The learning process never ends. Many of us have trouble letting our Creativity simply spill. We get tied into knots, worrying that our purges may not measure up. Well, pardon my asking, but... measure up to what? We are often desperate for our visions to materialize perfectly on the page, on the canvas or in the office. If you don't already know, let me fill you in on a secret. There is no fixed standard. Creativity, yours and mine, is in a perpetual state of expansion. Sort of like the universe, according to Steven Hawking. The only true competition is with ourselves, as Martha Graham stated.
What matters is that we continue leaning on our own edge. That edge will be unique and not quite like anyone else's edge. Most masterpieces are achieved through long periods, requiring much trial and error. Their creators spend much time in their "labs," producing with a mixture of stumbling and brilliance. Like most other meaningful aspects of life, failure is an inherent part of the Creative Process.
In studies about artists and creativity growth, the single-most unifying element found among all artists was the ability to continue re-creating. Artists execute a form, and they then re-form the form. They re-create, over and over, until the original inspiration has developed to fruition. Those who succeed in art careers, and in actualizing themselves as artists, all have this ability in common. This is the only consistent linking factor. No demographic or sociological factor family history, genetics, habits, personality, or ethnicity links all artists.
This conclusion is a helpful guide, not just for professional artists, but for anyone committed to creative growth. It indicates that we are not meant to focus so hard on quick, end results. We are meant to stay present in a process, to make lots of mistakes, to evaluate, revise and change. This involves letting go of the perfectionism while, at the same time, holding onto standards. As a creativity coach, many clients I encounter believe they don't deserve a learning curve. They make demands upon themselves to spill perfection in miraculous bursts. Not only is this an unrealistic expectation, it is actually antithetical to the creativity growth itself. The next time you feel reluctance to "spill" in messy experimentation, try to behold spilling as the roadmap to creative genius. The next time you get down on yourself or notice you are holding impossibly high standards, try reading this snapshot on creativity growth again.
Fine art and quality journalism in a free society provide checks and balances to the state's power. Likewise, the process of creative growth provides checks and balances to our inner lives. Our Creations provide mirrors for us to look into. In a way they are similar to dreams, because they contain fragments of our truth. Who and what we are, what we think, how we feel, are reflected there.
What we see can console us and inspire us. It can also disconcert us. Seeing who we are more clearly is wholly Good, no matter what we see. Because it provides opportunity. Opportunity to appreciate the things we like about ourselves and to build upon them. Opportunity to reveal our blind spots and broaden our awareness. Opportunity to listen to our troublesome attitudes and shift what is possible to shift. Creative growth delivers many rich gifts, to ourselves and to others. As we create and re-create our projects, we re-create ourselves at the same time.
Yes, the cliche is still alive and true. Rome was not built in a day. It was built inch-by-inch. Each sentence written, each frame shot, each inquiry made, each gallery visited, each net search conducted, each phone call sent, each lecture attended, each film seen, each brushstroke made, each aesthetic conversation held, each bit of research done (and the list goes on), will bring us one inch closer to a fruition, to an output we will finally call finished.
Every inch counts. No inch is to be dismissed, even when you feel it was a step backward - because backward steps provide more clarity. Each time you yawn while moving another tiny inch, try to stay in the moment with that inch, honoring it for the essential link in the chain that it is. Pretty soon you will notice the your inches are gelling into a unique creation. Moral of the story, enjoy your inches.
Next: The Creative Process
©2008 Barbara Bowen. All rights reserved.
Barbara Bowen is a New York based professional writer and photographer, and founder of Gateways Coaching. She coaches artists and other art career professionals in transition worldwide. ...
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