Give. Whether to yourself or to a fellow artist in need. Every photographer, director, painter, writer, creative, entrepreneur, whatever mold into which you fit (or don’t) has basic needs. And thankfully, these needs are mostly free of charge. I’ve read 100 artist biographies, studied my own life and the creative LIVES of those around me and distilled some of the commonalities — and the outliers — for how and when, under what circumstance creatives kick ass. A pattern emerges. Therefore I suggest that you immediately (or ASAFP) give to yourself or to others….
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1. Adventure + Experience. Whether in mind and spirit OR in actual physical practice, give yourself adventure and experience. Do stuff. Some stimulus, some INPUT is required as the raw building materials of a creative life. Profound is good, but unnecessary. What’s necessary are emotions, highs & lows, chinks in one’s armor, dents, road wear, and a range of experiences. What are yours? Some people go looking, others get hit but the truck, but in every case an experiential narrative is required for inspiration. So let me be blunt. Get off your ass. Given the chance to “go” or “stay”, you go. Whether you really go looking or metaphorically do, you won’t find “creativity”, you’ll find the stuff that creativity glues together. You’ve got to either cultivate, dig up, source, uncover or live these raw materials, these bricks, the sticks, and the meat to make something that only you can make. Live a life so that you can have a point of view.
2. Space. Creative synthesis doesn’t happen during your adventures, amidst the chaos and the noise. The mayhem and the delight of life gives you the ingredients, but synthesis only happens when you’re quiet, when you’ve got space, a moment to breathe. Sometimes it doesn’t require much space: a sleepless night, a shower, or an hour inside your head. Other times it requires more. But I guarantee it won’t be while you’re in the thick of it. Inspiration might rain down upon you, but building that inspiration into something meaningful takes more room than you’re giving yourself right now; it takes time (even a sliver), and it takes iteration. Rarely if ever will something come to you fully formed, despite all the fairy tales you’ve heard. Provide some respite, some space after inspiration, and harvest you will.
3. A Mirror. Give yourself a mirror. Not literally, but a figurative mirror to reflect on that voice inside your head, and capture that voice in an emotion. The raw materials of which I spoke above, are certainly out there in the world, but a quick reminder that you’ll not find any answers per se “out there”. All those answers – and I mean every one — are “in here”. In you. Things coming from you – from an only-you-could-have-made-this perspective is a requirement of outstanding art and creativity. Hence the mirror. No opportunity to reflect, no creative answers.
4. A Schedule To Make, Ship, or Do. Give yourself the schedule you hate – the one that says make it today, ship it, build it, do it. Chuck Close said (paraphrased) that… “If I sat around and only made art when I was ready, I wouldn’t have made much art.” It’s because Chuck knows that we excel at what we practice. And if we practice everyday – even in the absence of the raw materials, the mirror, the space, we’ll certainly be ready when all that shit lines up. Trust me on this one. And don’t try and say I’m contradicting myself, given the above points. You’ve got skills that need honing, even in the absence of the creative moon lining up with the creative Venus. Make things every day. Publish, launch, post, iterate, share. By God it’s the only way anything gets done.
5. A Break. Give yourself a damn break. You don’t have to be weird, unhappy, in ecstacy or pain to create great stuff. You have to be there. You have to be in the game, not on the sidelines. Adventuring and synthesizing, and reflecting and creating and shipping all take work; and that work won’t always be great. Don’t be a critic. The lives of critics are boring, ugly, short and full of yuck. Haven’t written a book? Don’t hate on one. Haven’t made a film? Be generous in your commentary. Don’t take, give. Give time, give gratitude, and by all means give yourself and others a break.
And don’t think you’ll get by with just one of the above. You’ve gotta wrangle all 5. Trust me on that.