Snapshots: Fueling the Creative Process

Is your inner critic out of position?

For creative art careers, the inner critic may become a helpful servant in disguise.
It may be hard for artists and other professionals to embrace this statement. But to understand the deeper dynamics of the inner critic is empowering. If we push the inner critic away, it gets stronger. If we are patient and understand its messages, it will yield to the creative voice, moving our creative process into more flow. The reformed inner critic can shift to play a supportive role in our creative career. This process of transformation employs the “awareness mind” to listen deeply. When the creative voice moves forward to reclaim its authentic and leading position, there is surprisingly positive movement in the creative process: The inner critic transforms, gradually, into a helpful editor.

Do you associate over-long hours with greater productivity?

Clients seeking creative art career help sometimes overestimate the usefulness of long hours. But spending more time on projects may, or may not be, the answer. One of my clients sacrificed one “extra-curricular” activity after another, devoting every spare moment to being in her studio. Before long, her world became smaller. As her world shrank, so did her imagination. The discipline was virtually dis-empowering to her creativity process. Just as in child rearing, artistry demands not quantity–but rather, quality of time. The rest of our world–the places we go, people we meet, food we eat, visuals and smells we encounter–all foster our creativity on subtle levels. Watch out for the impulse to narrow your world for the sake of over-productivity. In helping artists, I have learned that balance is the golden rule, and each artist must seek to coordinate the levels of activity that are right for him or her.

The creative process doesn’t always feel good.

Old hands know this truth intimately, but it never hurts to restate it. The creative process is complex, and not in the least simple. It contains an equal number of valleys as peaks, and perhaps more. Just as in a love relationship, it doesn’t always deliver a high. Alongside Inspiration, transcendence and joy, lurk fear, guilt, frustration and disappointment. We are not capable of rendering exact likenesses that fuel by our imaginations. We are limited beings who can only create a mantel of those visions. We must learn to accept this reality and acquiesce to it as a vehicle for growth and progress. The good news is that, in the long run, the “wins” outweigh the “defeats.” Most often, the journey proves to be worthwhile and elevating.

Action is the answer.

As an artist helping others to manage the creative process, I have learned that the single-most important factor in success is to take action. True, there are times when pullling back into receptivity is required. But to act, on a regular basis, is the cornerstone for building momentum. Even when we do not feel like it; when we are tired, fearful, or filled up with life’s complications. Even when we feel lousy. Take action, even just an inch of it. It’s powerful medicine.

Risk in creativity is optimal when assumed in degrees.

Staying true to our creative process and career does not mean we take 90 degree leaps overnight. Optimal engagement means that we are striking a balance between our need to be creatively active and our need to be grounded; financially, emotionally and socially. Life has many dimensions. Each of us has fundamental needs to fulfill, and when we’re in balance, our creative work will neither be stifled nor dominate us.

Final results benefit from messy “drafts.”

The ego part of the brain drives us to believe that creative genius must arrive in an instant of creation. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, it took master playwright Tennessee Williams 15 drafts or more to complete a play. The messier we get in the “laboratory,” the better our final versions will be. Genius arrives when we let go into uncertainty, when we get out of our heads and leap in. From the fires of spontaneity, mistakes will erupt, but so will unintentional genius. You have the power to decide who views your work, and when. Mistakes can be edited and revised. We forget that sometimes. Go ahead; regurgitate on your page, prance like a fruitloop on the floor, splatter paint like a new (and healthier) Jackson Pollack. This is your experimental time; your growth curve. Even the most seasoned professionals are in an unending creative process of empowerment and career growth, unless they’ve hit the end. After all, isn’t evolution, in a sense, the whole point of creating?

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*Essay by Barbara Bowen of GatewaysCoaching.com - the definitive source for artists and creative careers in transition. Contact Barbara to empower your creative process and for help with your career goals. She would love to hear from you.*