Usually I know what I want to write about. For some reason this week nothing has emerged. I don’t feel particularly crazy busy in my life, which is usually the precursor to feeling uncreative. Actually everything feels pretty spacious. For me this is usually the set up for being creative. I know that if I create a space then usually something comes along to fill it in. I never know what, but I have seen this pattern over and over again in my art practice.
This not knowing place is basically something I now just completely ignore. You really don’t need to worry about it. There is a great saying: “If it doesn’t stink, don’t stir it” I love this idea; that unless you go poking around in the perceived notion that you have become suddenly empty or dried up creatively, the problem will just go away. It is just better to not even mess with it.
Usually all you need to do is something. Anything at all that is different than what you are doing now. Take a dab of blue or scratch out or cover something up. If nothing else you can always get destructive. Nothing like messing up something to up the ante. You just have to do something different. Change it up.
And that is it. “Change” itself seems to catalyze us, knowing in an instant where to go. I think maybe deep inside all of us we know where we are going but that our limited thinking – our intellect gets in the way. The soul knows but we just don’t know how to listen. For some reason when change occurs, when new things arrive or the old leave – this stirs us and for a moment or two we can hear our internal response..either a yes or a no.
This is how most art is made…you just keep adjusting, trying to decipher what it is inside you that needs to be answered. In trying to explain this internal decision making mechanism to students who question whether theirs is in fact working, I often will grab a couple random things off a table. It doesn’t matter what they might be…maybe a salt and pepper shaker and say, a pomegranate. If I hold these up and ask which is preferred, nobody ever doesn’t know- they all have pretty strong opinions.
Regardless of why or whether more choose the salt shaker over the pomegranate, what is important is the fact that everyone just always has a clear preference. This knowing is a clue as to how art is developed by an individual over time. Art is the practice of making better and better, more refined decisions. Whether it is a painting, an essay, a poem, seasoning a soup or even decorating a house. – in all areas of life, to be honest – this decision making, this art of choosing when presented with something new and of allowing our insides to weigh in on what is before us perfects our art. It also perfects us.
When we choose correctly, our art gets more like us, the soup recipe is asked for (but of course you veered off the recipe which is why it is so good), the painting is amazing, and you just simply feel good. It just quietly feels right. You leave the studio pleasantly satisfied and, as usually is the case, you don’t even remember that when you arrived you had no idea what to do.
What do you do when you don’t know?
I would love to know.
In anticipation, Nicholas
the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.