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Snapshots : Creative Process

Snapshots of the Creative Process

By Barbara Bowen

Snapshots

If you are an artist seeking creativity help for your career, you might be associating longer hours with greater productivity.

I notice that spending more time on projects doesn't always work. One of my clients gave up one "extra-curricular" activity after another, devoting every spare moment to being in her studio. Before long, her world became smaller. As her world shrank, so did her imagination. Immaculate discipline was virtually disempowering, rather than empowering, her creativity process. Just as in child rearing, artistry demands not quantity but, rather, quality of time. The rest of our world — the places we go, people we meet, food we eat, visuals and smells we encounter — all foster our creativity on subtle levels. Watch out for the impulse to narrow your world for the sake of productivity. As a creativity coach, I have learned that balance is the golden rule, and each artist must seek to balance the creative tools that are right for him or her.

The creative process doesn't always feel good.

The old hands know this truth intimately, but it doesn't hurt to restate it. The Creative Process is complex, and not in the least simple. It contains an equal number of valleys as peaks, and perhaps more. Just as in a love relationship, it doesn't always deliver a high. Alongside Inspiration, transcendence and joy, lurk fear, guilt, frustration and disappointment. We are not capable of rendering the exact likenesses fueled by our imaginations. We are limited beings who can only create a mantel of those visions. We must learn to accept this reality and acquiesce to it as a vehicle for growth and progress.The good news is: in the longer run, the "wins" outweigh the "defeats," so the journey proves to be worthwhile, and elevating.

As a creativity coach for art career professionals and myself an artist, I have learned that the single-most important thing for success in Creativity is to take action. True, certain times require we pull back and move into receptivity. But to act, on a regular basis, is the cornerstone for building momentum. EVEN when we do not feel like it; when we are tired, fearful, or filled up with life's complications. EVEN when we feel lousy. Taking action, even just a little bit of it, is powerful medicine.

Risk in creativity is optimal when assumed in degrees.

Staying true to our creativity does not mean we take 90 degree leaps overnight. Optimal engagement means that we are striking a balance between our need to be engaged creatively and our need to be grounded financially, emotionally and socially. Life has many dimensions, as we all know. Each of us has fundamental needs to fulfill, and when we are in balance, our creativity will neither be stifled nor take us over.

Final "products" benefit from messy "drafts."

All too often the ego part of the brain drives us to believe that creative genius must arrive in an instant of creation. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, it took the master playwright Tennessee Williams 15 drafts or more to complete a play. The messier we get in the "laboratory," the better our final versions will be. Genius arrives when we let go into uncertainty, when we get out of our heads and leap in. From the fires of spontaneity, mistakes will erupt, but so will unintentional genius. You have the power to decide who views your work, and when. Mistakes can be edited and revised. We forget that, sometimes. Go ahead, regurgitate on your page, prance like a monkey on the floor, splatter paint like a new (and healthier) Jackson Pollock. This is your experimental time. Your growth curve. Even the most seasoned professionals are in an unending creative process of empowerment and growth, unless they've hit the end. After all, isn't evolution, in a sense, the whole point of creating? •

© 2008 Barbara Bowen. All rights reserved.

Barbara BowenBarbara Bowen owns Gateways Coaching and helps artists and other professionals to master the creative process, build momentum, and take sensible risks to move careers to the next level. More »

8/22/08