Most of you are probably familiar with Newton’s first law of motion. For those who aren’t, it basically states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force. The same is true for an object in motion. But while Newton applied this law to physical motion, it also applies to creative motion. It’s basically what Picasso meant when he said, “inspiration exists, it just has to find you working.” Chuck Close, on the other hand, doesn’t wait for inspiration, insisting that “inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work.” I think he’s saying the same thing as Picasso—and Newton for that matter—in that his work happens only when he’s in motion, when he’s engaged in the act of making. Now this may sound obvious, but the doing—not just the thinking about the doing—is often where we stumble. I know it’s where I stumble. I have journals and notepads filled with sketches and ideas for projects—things that I should be DOING, not just thinking about doing. But for whatever reason, taking the leap from thinking to doing often requires an extraordinary amount of creative energy and sometimes I just can’t seem to move the stone. I wax poetic about the creative process of others and yet so often my own process gets mired in analysis paralysis, fear or just simple procrastination, bringing a halt to whatever creative inertia I was attempting to jumpstart. The irony is that starting and stopping is really all we have control over. When we begin and when we ship. The rest is alchemy. So what’s the answer? How do we (read: I) break this cycle of stagnation and move to act? The answer will be different for everyone. For some, it may mean adopting a schedule like “from 9am to 11am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I write [or paint or take photographs].” For others, it may mean enlisting an accountability buddy—someone who checks in with you periodically to make sure you’re still on track and who kicks your ass if you’re not. For me, I think it’s both of these things—at least for a while—along with trying to play the part of someone more confident than I am. I don’t mean “fake it till you make it”—I used to be much more confident than I have become in recent years—it’s more like “fake it till you find it” and the “it” is the motion of doing.
For years, I’ve used Coffitivity as a way to break the silence of an empty studio while I work. Thanks to Boing Boing, Coffitivity has been at least temporarily been replaced by the sounds of cracking ice, howling wind and the low drone of the diesel engines of an Arctic icebreaker.
John Berger’s landmark 1972 BBC series Ways of Seeing is now on YouTube and will change the way you look at art.