I got a little bit excited, thinking; this could be good. Surely a young artist is going to do some wild and crazy things. There's got to be some controversy and fun stuff. Maybe I'll even get some insight into the creative mind.
How wrong I was. It was truly disappointing. Boring with a capital B.
Cut to present day, I see a link on facebook to a page with the title, The Ten Stages of the Creative Process. Worth a read, I thought, and massaged mousey's shoulder to click and open. It wasn't great. No soul. I didn't even finish reading it. Drivel, essentially.
But it did get me thinking - I can write a better list than that. So here it is. I changed the title a little. And the content is completely different. Not a single point the same. I wrote down my ten points first and then filled in the blanks.
Creating something is an exhilarating, rewarding process. It involves an array of feelings and processes. It is a synthesis of multiple procedures interlayed with emotional and cognitive ups and downs. What is that process? Can it be explained? I don't know for sure. But I will try...
1. Initial impulse
Who knows where they come from. They pop in to your head and buzz around like a wild bee. They flick on like a spotlight in an abandoned dance hall. They fly out of a drainpipe and soar skyward at full flap. They make have lineage, they may make know sense at all. But when you get them - the burning, crackling, electric first notions - you feel a zing. It's like feeling the pull of a fish on your line. It's a big one! Stay cool.
2.) Further thoughts
Once you realise that you are onto something good, you stay with it and mull it over. Might be for a few minutes, hours, days or weeks... depending on the size and scope of the project. You give it further thought, venture down different tracks, consider potentials, options. This is an enjoyable stage because anything is possible.
Now. Is it really worth doing? Is it worth the time and effort? What is really involved with getting this project from idea to finished piece. Would you be better off spending the time on an existing project or a different idea? Some ideas burn bright but then don't have the fuel to last to conclusion. Some ideas are out of time. Sometimes they come to early, sometimes too late. Some are simply not worth the effort. But don't judge too harshly.... it might be worth hanging on, testing it out further.
4.) Ideas pinging
You are going to give it a shot. Now it's about what is going to really work. What you need to do to give it your best shot. You are excited and ready. The ideas are popping. You're inspired, motivated. This is another great stage. It's the height of the foreplay. After this, the pants are coming off.
Action time. You are into it. It's about releasing all that conceptual energy. Letting it flow. Manifesting your truth. Making, building, sketching, writing.... piece by piece you construct your vision. Like Michelangelo chipping away all the bits of marble that are not part of the sculpture waiting inside the block to be revealed, birthed.
New things come into play. It's impossible to anticipate everything. Improv is a big part of any great work. Using what pops up, throwing away pre-conceived segments that may have looked good in concept in the planning process but now somehow don't quite fit.
Bringing it all together takes confidence. And trust. Trust in self. Doubt is common. This is the stage where the unsure, those lacking commitment, conviction, have been known to give up. Eighty to ninety percent of the way there. So close. But so far. The last ten to twenty percent can be the hardest. There is no more whimsical behaviour. This is the serious end of things. This is where you tie off all the knots. You commit to your vision, you clarify, pull the threads all together. Pieces become a whole. It's a thing now. Birth has been given. There is crying involved in this stage. Pain and struggle are not unknown, either. This is where you face your demon and conquer them.
"Kill your darlings," is how Truman Capote put it. For writers they must jettison bits they love, bits they worked on extra hard, bits they are proud of. They must trash anything that does not serve the story. Same with an artist, a dancer, a musician. It's not only about what is there. It's about what isn't. It's about empty space. Pauses. It's about allowing the viewer, the listener, the reader to fill in the gaps. Doing this part well is a learned skill. It's something that one truly gets better at with practice. It's difficult but rewarding. It's about aiming for perfection. It takes time. And sweat. But it's worth it. So worth it.
You've done it. You have completed the creative process. Well, mostly. You have done all you can do. Now it's time to present it to the world. Set it free. Share it. Show it. Sing it out loud. How it is to be judged should not overly concern you, for your job is done. If you are happy, that is what matters. But to not heed the response of others, too, is unwise. Every one is a potential teacher. Each can see or hear things that you may not. Listen and learn from feedback. Positive and negative. it's all the same.
The project is over. It's now history. It now has a place in your scrap book or worthwhile pursuits. A part of you is in it and it is a part of you. Look back on it objectively if you can. See what you have done. Feel proud. See the small mistakes. See what you would do differently next time. Don't be too hard on yourself. It will soon be time for the next great thing. You are lucky. You can create. You're a god. Small g, sure. But still. You're fucking lucky.
Maybe if Jimmy J comes back and visits the future, he will read this and rewrite his solemn tome with a bit more zing and zest. Maybe, he'll come back and visit and get so caught in all the distractions of modern life that he won't even get around to writing at all. One can only hope. The bastard took such a promising title and did it no justice. As an artist, I doth protest.
Hold grudges? Me? Still raving about and resenting a required reading book from forty years ago!
Now, that's funny. I raise my whiskey glass and propose a toast, Jimmy J!
To the tormented artist! Like I said; we're fucking lucky. Jimmy J? Jimmy J? He's passed out.