Friday, January 15, 2010

time to make the doughnuts

I am a fairly driven and motivated person. I tend to be goal oriented, especially when it comes to creating and this tendency is responsible for my reasonably high creative output over the last ten years. My schedule requires me to plan ahead and to viciously protect any scraps of production time I can set aside. Production time is valuable….and yet there are times I just do not want to make things.

It’s easy to think of a Monday morning and that feeling you get when you have just hit the snooze bar and you lie there under the covers trying to think of reasons why you should not go to your job. But when it comes to art, most people do not consider that an artist might sometimes feel this way about going into a period of creative production. After all, isn’t art something the artist enjoys? If you love making art, how could you say that sometimes you just don’t want to do it?

I do love making things. I love working with steel and I love drawing. I look forward to it. I get excited about new ideas. And then when faced with the daunting task of starting a new sculpture I’ll find myself looking for a reason, any reason, to NOT work. The weather is too hot or too cold or maybe it’s raining and really, I can’t be expected to create sculptures when there’s a lingering drizzle outside, right? Maybe there’s a house “to do” list and a box of Krispie Kremes that need some attention. Some days I’ll do just about anything to avoid working on art.

Recently I read something about the creative process that made me realize I was not the only one who felt this way. Writer Donald Miller in his most recent book, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” described his writing process as a struggle against distractions. He compared his act of writing a book to the act of a plumber going to fix a drain – not exactly a romantic image. Even more recently Miller has stated on his blog,

“I don’t know very many writers who love the actual act of writing. We will do anything to avoid work. But because we have to pay our bills, at some point every day a good writer sits down to do his/her work.”

The thing Miller is getting at is the myth that artists are supposed to love their work 100% of the time. People often expect artists to approach their creative work with an enthusiastic love that would make a hippie jealous. Truth is, we do love what we do and there are days you could not keep us from our work but the thing to remember is that it is work. Hard work. It is also fearful work. I can only speak for myself here, but each success seems to bring more fear. What if that great drawing was a fluke? What if my next sculpture is not as great as my last? What if the public doesn’t respond to this series of work as positively as before? What if that gallery doesn’t like my new direction?

As Miller says, at some point we just have to sit down (or go to the metal shop) and do our work. Perhaps the drive comes from the need to pay bills or the need to have a particular number of works ready for an upcoming exhibition, but at some point you just have to go do it. Once the brain gets to clicking and the creative problems begin to turn into creative solutions, the dreading of hard work and the fear of failure begins to give way to excitement and joy. It is at this point you remember why you love this process so much and you wonder how you could have put it off for so long.

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