creative process: defending drudgery

09 Nov

Lolita’s computer is in therapy this morning. So she drafted up this post in longhand while her computer decided if it needs to “defragment” or not. Lolita’s reversion to 18th century technology speaks directly to our topic, which is the daily slog that supports the creative process.

Before Lolita hooked up with Deuce, and achieved Wisdom, she had this notion that artists should wait for those bright light feelings of great inspiration, in combination with those special moments of unique focused energy, before undertaking creative work. After all, who can imagine producing anything worthwhile the morning after your lover dumped you and you went to bed instead with a six-pack of 16 oz Coors Lights.

But our Girl’s logic, as she discovered in her hot 40s, was flawed at least on two counts. The first is that she will not necessarily produce anything worthwhile on any given morning, hangover or not. The second is that she feels, somehow, that producing is the main thing. Now producing is right up there with eating and walking the dog. Nevertheless, the main thing is engaging. Engaging is about creative thought and transformation of thought into concrete expression. It is about using the mind to imagine the creation and to sort through and order the steps and the techniques necessary to arrive at the created “thing”.

And the brain, which most of us rely on for thought, except for guys with respect to their social lives (Lolita’s opinion), needs to be exercised on a fairly regular basis in order to function optimally. Now we won’t consider what that 6-pack of tall-boys did to your brain last night, but this morning is about engaging in your creative process. The daily obligation the artist has to his art is to engage every day in creative thought, and to push thought into action as far as physically possible that day.

The narrative of the creative experience is replete with instances of this “pushing through the pain,” be it emotional or physical. Even to push through intellectual limitations, and we all hit that wall eventually Einstein.

One of the great mezzo sopranos of the 20th century, Jan DeGaetani, spoke in master class about the importance and value of practicing (that’s what musicians do while they are waiting for a gig) on days when you just don’t feel like it. Now this was coming from a woman who was, sadly, soon to be taken by illness. She wanted us to understand that when we approach our artistic work as a discipline, detached from the emotions of the moment, even of the physical or intellectual limitations of the moment, we tap into some very special and important resources which might not be available to us, say, when we are delirious in a mystical ecstasy of creative revelation. Mostly we are talking about the potential for cold, hard analytical reasoning and ruthless honesty about the condition of ones project.

We read this nice blog from a year or so ago, called “The Reward” for another instance of working through the pain.”>

Now there is a context for everything, and the context for “pushing through the pain” is that creative life, all life, is driven by a natural dynamic of tension and release. There is certainly a point in every day when we should put our work down, and occasionally there are days when we should put our work down. Some people do that once a week and call it Sabbath.

But be honest with yourself and be curious. There is something special there to discover, for the hardy soul that can push through the hangover and the depression, or the stress and distractions of life, and engage regularly in creative thought.

spark on.


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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in creative process


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