In all my explorations of the creative process I’ve discovered that creativity happens on two different levels.
There’s the creation itself. Which requires a lot of time and energy spent diving into the internal world. At this phase of the process there’s a tremendous need for solitude. This is when you have the experience of crafting something out of nothing except your own heart and imagination.
When you are in the throes of creative birthing you need to develop a very robust relationship with your muse.
This is where you dig down deep into your soul, feeling into the dark of the unknown. Following the breadcrumbs of your intuitive promptings. Allowing yourself to be led by your fascinations, your passions and your obsessions. This is the place where you can get lost for hours, days weeks in the deliciousness of conception and eventually birth.
There’s an intimacy to this phase of the process.
You and your creation are one thing. It is born out of your nervous system, your bones and your blood. You need to merge with it. Allow it to take you over. You are the projects non-metaphorical mother. And it comes out of you like a child is birthed out of your body.
The challenge here is to stay true to the project at hand.
To shepherd it but not control it. To listen to it and allow it to come to life through your tender and devoted ministrations. To listen to it. See it. Honor it. Allow it to live. Allow it to be itself.
To not try to make it be anything other than what it is supposed to be. To not allow your judgments or fears to get in the way of how it wants to be expressed. To treat it like a beloved lover. To be passionately devoted to it with your time and attention and be willing to insulate it from outside influence. Prying eyes. Other people’s opinions.
It is good and holy to protect it during the creation stage. To keep it safe and warm and hidden.
It’s a lot like raising a child. Complete with sleepless nights and giving everything you’ve got to the process of creation.
This is what it means to be an artist.
Sometimes your art never leaves this creative chrysalis. There is no desire to have what you created be seen by anyone outside of a circle of trusted family and friends. You might have a bunch of paintings all over your house or maybe even spilling over to be stored in the garage because you can’t stop making art. Or the novels that you create every year during NanoWriMo because you just love to write. The thousands of photos that live on your computer. The multitudes of art projects that show up in every nook and cranny of your wildly creative home.
This is the deeply passionate core of the creative impulse. Creating something because you simply MUST is the heart and soul of the creative process. This is where it’s satisfying enough to simply DO the art. To make things for the sake of making them. To fill hundreds of journals over many years. To paint or draw or knit or dance for the sheer joy of creating. To make art your spiritual practice so what you are really creating is a deeper connection to your soul.
But there is another experience related to the creative process that is born out of the hunger for the art to be seen. To be responded to. To be applauded and celebrated. To experience our art is a blessing in this world.
This is the place where what you have created in the secret crucible of your creative container needs to become visible in the greater community.
This is creativity brought out onto the stage and under the klieg lights. Creativity as a product. Creativity as a performance. Creativity as a gift. Creativity as a communication with the larger world.
This level of the creative process has a whole other set of challenges to contend with. Because when we bring our creations out to be seen we WANT a response. And we have no control over what that response is going to be. We don’t know if we’re going to get kudos or crickets. Rave reviews or rotten tomatoes.
There are a number of challenges and hurdles that you need to deal with when you are at this place in your creative journey. And most of these challenges have to do with you believing the voices of fear trying to take up all the bandwidth in your brain. This is a place where the inner critic can come up with all KINDS of doubts and anxieties about what you have created. Things like trying to convince you that your art is simply no good. Or telling you that how it gets responded to is a measure of it’s worth.
And as a way to mitigate that fear, trying desperately to manage the response you get to your art. It’s another place that we try to maintain control. And control is NEVER a good idea at any phase on the creative path.
The first hurdle is feeling the desire to be more public with your work but thwarting that desire by simply not doing what you need to do to GET it out there.
You procrastinate. Make excuses. Allow a million different distractions to derail your hunger to shine and be seen. This is the most popular tactic for managing response because if no one ever sees your art, no one can do any of those things that you’re afraid will happen to you, like being judged or rejected.
This tactic keeps you feeling safe, but denies you the thrill and joy and soul growth that comes from risking showing your art to the world at large.
The second hurdle is to not succumb to the temptation to change or modify what you have already created in an attempt to ward off any criticism or to get more attention, FaceBook likes or sales.
For example, a friend of mine wrote a novel that contained some very emotionally disturbing and challenging themes. When she showed it to a friend, and the friend objected to the intensity of what she had written in a couple of the scenes, she was tempted to tone down her original message in order to gain her friend’s approval.
Every creation is born out of risk. And taking those risks requires a boatload of courage. If you start down the path of changing what you have created in order to please or appease someone or something outside of you, you are not only dishonoring your original creative vision but you are in danger of undermining your confidence in your own creative voice.
The final hurdle in getting our creative work out into the world is doing what you need to do to discover your natural audience.
There are people who are going to resonate with your art and thrill to what you have birthed into being. They will simply get you. They will appreciate you without you having to TRY to impress them. And you need to find those people.
Not everyone is going to want what you have to offer. And that’s OK. Where you get yourself in trouble is wasting time trying to convince those folks who don’t get what you do that you have something worthwhile to give them. Or feeling bad about yourself because not everyone DOES value your work.
Another example of this comes from one of my students who spent a lot of time trying to get her art into galleries with doors slamming in her face every step of the way. Which of course led to her feeling terribly disappointed and full of self doubt. She was losing heart for not only her art but herself as an artist as a result of so much rejection.
But then she discovered a group of folks outside of the gallery system that LOVED her work with a holy passion. And began marketing directly to them. So instead of insisting that the galleries were the only way to fly, she simply went were the natural enthusiasm for her work already effortlessly existed.
Your creative life is yours and yours alone.
And what brings you the greatest fulfillment is something that needs to be worked out between you and your muse. Making art is the non-negotiable piece if you’re going to lead an artist’s life. Showing what you’ve made to others is something that might or might not be of interest to you.
But if you DO get the call to become more visible with your work, do it in a way that continues to feed your joy. Because joy is really first and foremost why we commit ourselves to this crazy artists life in the first place.