The popular conception of a free spirited, creative life, full of inspiration and imaginative productivity is an enticing proposition. But it’s not quite that straightforward.
The reason is that there are many more ingredients that you need to add to the mix before your creative life can come to productive fruition. The freedom of the creative life goes hand in hand with the commitment to a creative practice. This is the creativity paradox. Ask any successful artist, writer or musician about their success and they will tell you their tale of long practice hours, hard work, strength of will and dedication. They’ll tell you, too, about how they’re always learning, always striving to improve, seeking and trying out new techniques and fine tuning the old ones. They’ll confirm to you what Thomas Edison so famously proclaimed in the early 1900’s: “None of my inventions came by accident… I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”
Just because the nuts and bolts of a creative practice involve hard work and commitment, it doesn’t mean that the process can’t be enjoyable. In fact what better work to dedicate yourself to than that which is fired by your creative imagination? You’re far more likely to succeed in an endeavor that excites your interests and aptitudes than in one which leaves you cold. And the true beauty of the creative process is that the work you undertake can transport you into the freedom of the flow experience. Those times when you’re utterly absorbed in your activity and completely unaware of the time passing or of your surroundings, those are the times when you’re in flow. A sublime state. Do you already know which nut and bolt activities allow you to access flow?
In his book ‘The Art Of Creative Living’, Thomas Kinkade, the well known and commercially successful American painter writes about what he calls basket-weaving, describing this process as ‘the plodding exercise of hard-won skills through diligent effort.’ He explains that the process of creating a high quality basket involves both creative plans for the design and well practised weaving skills. These alone are not enough, though, because to bring the basket to fruition, you also have to ‘engage in the repetitive, sometimes tedious act of weaving the final product.’ He points out that if you don’t undertake the weaving phase, your initial ideas and skills are meaningless.
Do you have a notion of which nuts and bolts your particular art demands of you, and which will support your desire for a creatively productive life? Cashew or pistachio? And do you know which practices come easiest to you and which you need to work at next? Does your overall creative aim keep you motivated to roll your sleeves up and get right in amongst those nuts and bolts?
Your greatest leaps in progress are most likely to come through working on your detail. If you keep your gaze steadfastly on the big picture without focusing in on those nuts and bolts, the big picture is unlikely to progress far. But by getting down to the nitty gritty, it will develop piece by wonderful piece. As will you.