I was reading a spectacular post by Nick Cave this week–he advises a reader on how to connect with her creativity even without an idea.
Creativity is not something that can disappear. The creative impulse is simply the strategy used to catch ideas. Ideas are everywhere and forever available, provided you are prepared to accept them. This takes a certain responsibility to the artistic process. There is discipline and rigour and preparation involved. You must prove yourself worthy of the idea.
I have to admit, I always need to hear it. I have a larger mission I designed for myself, a multi-year plan. It doesn’t seem any closer some days. Other days, I regress. And then there are the moments I talk myself out of a lot because I get scared, or bills are due, or I’m too tired from doing work that I don’t like.
After years of struggling, I learned what to do: keep going.
Any progress is progress. One inch forward, one small daily nod towards the goal. I love the advice Terry Crews has given for years: create the habit with whatever tiny actions you can take. Without a daily ritual of working, I get frustrated. I have had to loosen my ideas on what progress is–sometimes, I just manage to stand in my studio in my pajamas, drinking my morning coffee before the day begins. Other days, I get to spend a couple hours making work. Still others, I try to at least clean an area. It is all part of my larger mission, so I have to value each moment, however trivial.
Crews also points to another crucial factor: the habit of my creative practice has to be enjoyable to stick. He speaks of going to the gym, but it applies beautifully to any practice I am developing to add to my quality of life:
Go to the gym, don’t even work out. Just GO. Because the habit of going to the gym is more important than the work out. Because it doesn’t matter what you do. You can have fun – but as long as you’re having fun, you continue to do it.
I undermine myself by thinking I need to progress radically with every little gesture. What I combine this idea with my tendency to overpromise outside of my practice, I ensure my own insane frustration. I risk giving up entirely. If I show up and am present for myself every day as a foundation for further action, I truly build my practice.