This morning, I am reflecting on last week’s work in the studio. I have been working on a “water” series; there are 7 pieces in this series, 5 large and 2 small. I started out with enthusiasm and within several weeks finished 3 pieces I liked. The other 4 pieces have morphed into something else over and over … and over again. I know this place, the stuck place. I know it is inevitable in the creating process. Yet, somehow, every time I start a new piece, I think “this time, I have it all figured out”. With all the naivete of a child learning to ride a bicycle. Every time, I question whether I even belong in the studio. The chatter in my head gets very loud. Then I think, the ‘pro’s don’t do this’; so humiliating.
Fortunately, last night I just re-read Steven Pressfield’s book, “Do the Work”. He reminds, every creative goes through a similar process. We start out with a ‘great idea’, confidence and enthusiasm and the work progresses. In my case, the early stages are exciting, fun. I reach the ‘fall in love’ place and think “I will just stop here; it’s finished”. I have sometimes had these photographed professionally for inclusion on my website. Only to discover, after spending the money, the artwork is in a ‘middle phase’. My nemesis. Pressfield calls this ‘the big crash’. He says every everything crashes, “The Big Crash is so predictable, across all fields of enterprise, we can practically set our watches by it.” He further says, “Crashes are hell, but in the end, they’re good for us.” Whaat? No, no, no, I protest! Until I read the next line, which is, “A crash means we have to grow.” Ahhh, that again. In the psychotherapy world, we call those “AFOG”s: another f**king opportunity for growth. Yeah, no one welcomes ‘em.
I am comforted, however, that I am not alone, tho’ I rarely hear artists talk about this. I understand; I didn’t talk about it either, until now, here. Writers, visual artists, sculptors, dancers, songwriters, etc. We’re not alone. It isn’t a fault or a lack of talent or training. It’s part of the process. I used to say f**king process then realized that is evidence of anger that I have to go through it, as if, somehow, I should be ordained to skip this part of the creating process. Whatever the cause, Pressfield notes, we are compelled to go back and solve the problem we created or set in motion at the outset. Instead of cursing, in the future, I will put the ‘bad boy’ on time out while I work on something else. That’s my intention.
What do you do when you hit the proverbial wall? I am really interested in what other artists do to move beyond the doubt, self-criticism, apathy and disillusionment. Please do let me hear from you; we’re all stronger when we share. And thanks for being here with me today.
Phyllis Anne (p'anne)