Don't make a statement

Like many people, I have long dreamed of writing a Great Novel or creating some Very Moving series of art that really makes a big statement. That really connects with people. Problem was, I could never really figure out what I wanted to say that was so very important. I felt like I didn’t really have anything figured out yet, so how could I tell that big story? I didn’t even really know how I felt about anything, so how could I express those yet discovered feelings? (the technical term for this is that I felt “Dead Inside”).

I heard something recently on Creative Pep Talk that really stopped me in my tracks: making art isn’t so much about Making A Statement as it is about figuring out how we think or how we feel about something. It’s in the process of making the thing that we figure it out! Why didn’t someone tell me this earlier?

(Sorry for the abrupt cut off there, recast only allows you to make 30, 60 or 90 second clips)

Andy mentions in a few recent episodes that art is about exploration. I honestly don’t even really know how to do this. When I was younger and art was my main jam, I spent most of my time learning how to draw, and later, learning how to paint. But I wouldn’t say I spent much time exploring my feelings or being intuitive.

This is in line with Peter Hasting’s theory on creativity, which includes the idea of a three step process: 1) I don’t know what I’m doing, 2) I know what I’m doing, 3) I don’t know what I’m doing. It starts with a drive to make things, an intuitive desire to express oneself or whatever the reason is, then moves to learning the technical skills of the thing, then moves back to intuitive creation. I think I got stuck on step number two.

This is a great episode with many interesting ideas on creativity. I especially like his ideas around making a mess before simplifying, or as he put it, building the haystack before finding the needle. I think of the design process, where you start with divergent thinking (gather all the ideas, good bad and wild), and then move to convergent thinking, where you edit, hone and decide.

I have a tendancy to stop when I feel that what I am making is a little lost, or I don’t know where I’m going, or it’s not going the way I want. But I’m trying really hard to push past that and stick with it longer then I want. I’m beginning to see that it usually gets worse before it gets better, that’s just how making works. I’ve got to get lost, let intuition drive the process, and don’t stop when it gets ugly.