Saturday, March 12, 2011

Angels with sticks

Forgive me being obsessed; I'm still thinking about the phenomenon of creative people not getting started. I'm haunted by the thought of a vast garden of creative potential, with most of it wilting and dying — only a few scattered spots here and there getting watered and bursting forth with bright flowers.

If we tend our garden just a little bit better, we could have many more flowers.

Now, it's perfectly okay if people don't want to create anything. Not everyone is an artist by nature, and that's fine. What troubles me is the people who do want to create, who feel called to some very specific form of artistry, but who find themselves blocked, unable to start doing the work that they want to do.

They're left perpetually frustrated, in a state of suspense. And it can't be good for one's health or happiness to be simultaneously pulled by something and held back from it.

At the same time, we all lose the value of whatever it was the artist was impelled to — and failed to — create. It's not that the world really needs more songs, more movies, or more novels. What the world need is more of the fruits of authentic inspiration. These are the things that are so powerful, so necessary, that the muses or angels (or whoever they are) are willing to intrude in some poor human's life and poke him with a stick until he creates the thing they demand.

Think of the angel whose job it is to hold the stick and poke, poke, poke the artist. Angels are not sadistic torturers by nature; they don't really want to cause pain. We can be sure that the creations that they are hoping to birth are truly valuable and would more than make up for the artist's temporary discomfort. But it only works if we, the artists, are able to follow through and actually create the work.

There are many potential pitfalls. The artist might not have the vocabulary to express the message. The artist might fail to grasp the message clearly, and lose most of it in the translation. But the most common pitfall, I'm afraid, is that the artist just doesn't do anything. He thinks he can't succeed, so he doesn't even try.

What I'm looking for is leverage — some way to intervene to make this creative process just a little smoother and more efficient. It should be better for everyone. Less poking for the angels, less pain for the artists, more flowers in our garden.

And the solution has to be something more than just asking artists to employ extra willpower and determination. Being an artist is hard enough without pushing even harder. In fact, my gut feeling is that the answer, if there is one, must involve making things easier.

1 comment:

Ann said...

Part of the problems also how personal the creative process is. And the fear that the result will be seen as not being worth anything. Once I decided that I had something worthwhile to say, starting my project was a lot easier.