Creativity and artistry form fascinating manifestations that demonstrate that there are contradictions in our reality. Whether it’s political theatre, a protest song, an eco-movie like Wall-E, or a painting of Gurnica; true artists are often the people who see past society’s mass ‘theatre of belief.’ That allows them/us to reveal an underlying truth that often takes society decades or even centuries to come to terms with.
Whether it’s in products or ideas, an artist’s awareness is tuned to the unspoken or unseen. Their artworks are expositions of their discoveries. This is why artists really don’t have to worry about creative block. It’s because no artist is truly building pieces out of nothing. It’s more like artists are excavating the ideas they have stumbled upon.
Maybe it’s an idea others have had before and we are authentically re-expressing it. Or maybe it is a new idea that will change the discourse of humanity. Either way, it is not something our ego needs to be invested in. We are not consciously creating beauty or financial value. But it’s true that those forms of value often only occur if we successfully expose a truth. (And yes, that truth can include the fact that sometimes frivolous beauty does have its place.)
If an artist thinks about ‘success’ they are stuck. If they let the future go and feel compelled by the work, they are fine. Rather than think we are supposed to be some self-sustaining island –the more realistic way to be creative is to just carefully sift through every idea we have. That works; because artists are the people who notice anything that in any way relates to what they have found.
Whether a connection is direct, chronological, or even metaphorical, many artists will turn the (not ‘their’) idea over in their own imagination as though it is its own entity. They’re looking for surprising things. And they are trying to find ways to show us the value and meaning behind their discovery. That is what a lot of art is.
If we are the artist, when we’re looking for ideas, we shouldn’t think we need ‘good’ ones. Better than good; be bold. Throw every crazy idea at something. Making friends with this humbling process is a lot of what I do with artists. When we’re ‘stuck’ we just need to get a different part of our brain involved. Then, once we feel like we’ve got the idea by the tail, we can start digging around where the central idea is buried.
Eventually a good artist will expose enough that the art will begin to take on shape and meaning to outside viewers. They will see it as the ‘artist’s creation,’ which is entirely valid. But the artist may well see it more as a strange kind of duty; where the sculptor removes all the extraneous material from view, leaving us with the creation. To outsider’s the artist ‘creates’ the good. But, to many artists, they just sifted through a lot of excess and were left with their ‘discovery.’
That ‘sifting’ process takes a special kind of mind, so artists are right to take great pride in the profession. There is a reason that artists are the first people that despotic leaders lock up. People undermine control when they work with original ideas. So artists have no good reason to feel insignificant in this world. To the contrary, creativity is the only reason that mankind has moved forward at all. That’s about as important an ability as human’s have.
What makes being an artist hard is our thought-based expectations. When we’re young we tend to want first drafts to be as good as our heroes’ work. But that’s nuts. What younger artists forget is that we can’t see that our heroes have many more years of experience yet they too still do multiple drafts that we will never know existed. Those could be called ‘failures.’ Or they could be called ‘how you find your work.’
If you’re creating and stuck: relax. Throw anything at the empty space. Follow impulses. See where they lead. We can always start again. Just don’t try to create perfect work. That unattanainable expectation would drive any healthy person insane. Instead, try to love the creation of the work as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be easy, or happy work —it can be tragic. But it nevertheless needs to be passionately ours.
Be bold with your art and your choices. Let your creativity expand your life and our world. The world welcomes your input.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.