I started a series of posts about creativity and so called “creative blocks” quite a while ago, and now that I’m on vacation, I will post someone else’s words about the creative process. “Show up” is the message, and I would say its true of everything in life. What’s the key to bring a good parent? You gotta show up every day however flawed a person you are…
My mantra or idea that we artists don’t wait for inspiration, we make art on a daily basis just like any other daily habit is not original or particularly earth shattering, but are you practicing it with your particular medium/media?
Most of the time I am lucky because I simply don’t care that much if I “like” what I am making or not, sort of like how you feel after your yoga class that the benefits come from doing it often and it doesn’t make much sense to judge how you did yoga.
Anyway, Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite musical artist, and he talks about his own process from “Brain Pickings Weekly:
“There are always meaningful songs for somebody. People are doing their courting, people are finding their wives, people are making babies, people are washing their dishes, people are getting through the day, with songs that we may find insignificant. But their significance is affirmed by others. There’s always someone affirming the significance of a song by taking a woman into his arms or by getting through the night. That’s what dignifies the song. Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.”
I would add that sometime so called boring activities inspire all kinds of creations from Charles Schultz’ beloved Peanuts to the TV show Seinfeld (which I believe took a lot of inspiration from Peanuts). There is a line in a David Bowie song about the artist Andy Warhol that I love:
“Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wakes up on the sea
Be sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint
and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”
I myself do love to think about glue and tape and practically any material.
Anyway here is the piece:
“Cohen approaches his work with extraordinary doggedness reflecting the notion that work ethic supersedes what we call “inspiration” — something articulated by such acclaimed and diverse creators as the celebrated composer Tchaikovsky (“A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.”), novelist Isabel Allende (“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”), painter Chuck Close (Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”), beloved author E.B. White (“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”), Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope (“My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”), and designer Massimo Vignelli (“There is no design without discipline.”). Cohen tells Zollo:
I’m writing all the time. And as the songs begin to coalesce, I’m not doing anything else but writing. I wish I were one of those people who wrote songs quickly. But I’m not. So it takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is. So I’m working most of the time.
To find a song that I can sing, to engage my interest, to penetrate my boredom with myself and my disinterest in my own opinions, to penetrate those barriers, the song has to speak to me with a certain urgency.
To be able to find that song that I can be interested in takes many versions and it takes a lot of uncovering.
My immediate realm of thought is bureaucratic and like a traffic jam. My ordinary state of mind is very much like the waiting room at the DMV… So to penetrate this chattering and this meaningless debate that is occupying most of my attention, I have to come up with something that really speaks to my deepest interests. Otherwise I nod off in one way or another. So to find that song, that urgent song, takes a lot of versions and a lot of work and a lot of sweat.
But why shouldn’t my work be hard? Almost everybody’s work is hard. One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff, to come up with my payload.”