creative cycle: the dark tunnel

06 Sep

There is a challenging stretch, towards the beginning of our project cycle, which feels a little like walking in a dark tunnel.  We have a concept for a new work, but we have only just begun to organize that idea, to think on how that concept might transform into a concrete form.  Much more is unknown than known for us at this stage in our creative process.  We can feel overwhelmed, and potentially despair at this point.

Confronting the potentially overwhelming work involved in moving new or stuck projects along takes some special strength and wisdom.  Perhaps it is encouraging to remember a fundamental reality at this point.  You were given the gift of artistic creation – to conceive original works and to transform conception into physical reality.  Your existence as an artist is primarily about engaging every day in the process.  Working efficiently and making progress and finishing projects is very important, but the process itself is more important, regardless of what is finished and when.

Here is an exercise for you.  You may or may not be a fan of jigsaw puzzles.  Some may consider them a huge waste of time.  Others may consider them therapeutic.  Let’s say that you fall in the first camp – you have better things to do with your time than sort through 5000 broken pieces and refit them.  Let’s say, however, that you desperately needed money, were out of work, and someone would pay you $10,000 to convey to their son an enjoyment and appreciation of jigsaw puzzles.

so let’s go.

  • look at the beautiful picture on the box – all the fine details and colors.  we are going to create that!
  • look at all these pieces.  Wow!  where to start?  well – you can look at this stage as overwhelming or as a point of obvious choices – the “low hanging fruit” stage.  It is easy enough and fun enough to find pieces with straight edges.  Let’s pile those together because we know they will form the perimeter of the puzzle.
  • how about pieces with only one color.  we can probably make several piles of pieces that are going to be neighbors
  • how about males and females in our unicolor piles – we can easily enough set the pieces side by side based on a simple male-female relationship
  • and then those unexpected “aha!” moments – look!  these pieces fit!  there is hope, there is light.  there will be a resolution eventually.
. . . and so on.
Returning to unfinished projects or commencing new ones is about recognizing the “low hanging fruit”. Progress is about identifying some obvious issues and taking some very obvious steps to address those issues.  We need to introduce a new element, or eliminate an element, or re-order elements.  Or perhaps we need to learn something new in order to push the project along.  The learning is not so hard.  It is usually just a matter of determining to do it.  The point of returning to projects or starting new projects is a good time to engage in some new learning – to spend some time thinking in a somewhat more abstract and objective way about some technical issues that have a bearing on your work.
The walk in the dark tunnel is not about despair or death.  It is about discovery, learning, growth, existence as a creator, partnering with the Creator.   It is about the simple pleasure of identifying and doing obvious and necessary tasks, and about the growth that comes from new learning.  We are strengthened, vitalized, and more powerful.  We can see in other aspects of our life during these times strong positive impacts from these particularly challenging moments in our creative cycle.  We find ourselves more decisive, more willing to risk, more available for life.
spark on
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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in creative cycle


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