Every now and then, we’re all struck with inspiration for a concept or idea and initially, in our excitement, are able to power through all the steps of the creative process with ease. After showing our peers and receiving feedback or praise, it’s time to start on our next project and this is where we get stuck, scratching our heads and thinking; “Why isn’t this as easy as the first time? Nothing’s changed.”
Often called writers block, this is a scenario familiar to almost all creators, and it sucks. In order to fully comprehend our occasional blockade of creativity, we need to look at the entire process of creating, from inception to presentation and we’ve whittled that right down into four, easily digestible focal points.
A recurring theme throughout this piece, which is going to appear in all sections, is the truth that all parts of the creative process need time set aside and work applied. Think of creating in terms of an iceberg; 80% of our investment (both fiscal and mental) that isn’t visible to our audiences is the hard work and time spent pushing past all our self-doubt to create that little 20% that we allow people to see. Creating good art is not for the apathetic.
This process is most difficult to articulate because inspiration is so subjective, it can vary between mediums, genres and most importantly people. I have found, however, that there are things that can be done to broaden the parameters of our imagination, like taking the time to research different styles and techniques, different approaches to your craft. This way you can find what aspects you respond to most. It is important, however, that you find your own voice and balance your own insight against your inspirations and sources; as illustrator Maria Herreros told us in one of our Artist Spotlights, “Do not imitate what you believe will be successful. Live life, because if you only watch fiction and work, you are watching someone’s vision.”
When we have a wealth of ideas, it can often be the case that instead of focusing on one and putting the others aside, we instead decide that we should not follow any of them through with significant conviction. There is actually a theory that applies to this called the paradox of choice, an example being when you look in your wardrobe full of clothes and proclaim that you have nothing to wear. Eventually, you will have to put pen to paper and work on one of your ideas. This can be a difficult process, requiring the most dedication and it tends to be where the excuses are made, but don’t fall victim to your own doubts. You know you can spend time creating instead of binge watching Orange is the New Black for a couple hours. Prioritise.
If you want to take the words of Jeannie Phan, who has found wonderful success as an illustrator: “Do more, theorize less. Researching and asking questions is great, but there’s a point where you have to put your plan into action and see how your artistic path pans out for you.”
For fear of sounding cheesy or invoking the wrath of Nike’s legal team, sometimes you have to just do it. Of course, sometimes, you’ll struggle and it’s important to take breaks; you’ll find no enthusiasm in your work if you grow to resent it like a babysitter with unruly children and although application is vital, you don’t want it to have to feel taxing, like a chore. The act of creating should be something that excites you and in order to achieve that, do whatever it is you need to keep working, whether this is wearing a full working suit to get in the right frame of mind or listening to death metal in your pants (though this is inadvisable at the library). For filmmaker Matt Harris-Freeth motivation is found in: “Coffee. Sugar. Music. Reading. And looking at pictures. Also, science and just learning about the world”. If you find what works in keeping you motivated, do it.
You have your piece and have worked hard on it, now you want to show it to as many people as possible, but how? We have spoken before about the power of social media and how it should be used to put you in touch with the largest audience in the world and if you’re at this point, it’s really worth considering. Another great way to present your work is to get in touch with other artists, try and put together an occasion where you can display your talent together; more and more people are trying to find events to attend and socialise and word of mouth is a great advertising tool. If you have found your own voice and are happy with your work, you can be sure that eventually, with persistence, you’ll find a following of people who appreciate your art. Daniela Sherer worded it perfectly: “It’s important to do your thing, and keep doing it. It’s cool to be trendy, but you have to do your own thing because that’s your voice.”
If you want to check out more of what the above, as well as what some other fantastic artists had to say, have a browse of our Artist Spotlight section.
Illustration by Leszek Pietrzak