One of the trickiest parts of being an artist is maintaining momentum. I struggle with this and I also am amazed at how many artists that I work with do too.
The making of Art can be super hard and then it can feel easy and effortless. It is a roller coaster ride that, for the most part, is tolerable. After all, life is like that too. We have good days and bad days.
However, when we add the additional difficulty of just showing up, of trying to squeeze our art practice into our busy life, it all can feel somewhat exhausting. In fact, for many artists, it can derail their ability to make art at all. It just is too overwhelming.
However, it doesn’t have to be. The key to this is understanding that there are 2 challenges here: the first being the actual garden-variety struggle involved with art making, while the second has to do with creating a sustainable art practice.
Art making always involves a degree of struggle. Getting information about materials, getting clear on what your own art is about takes time. It is an ongoing process. However, fixing the second one, making it easier to actually show up to make the work, is far easier to remedy. It has a lot to do with your thinking. And that can change very quickly.
After years of making art I came to an important realization about my art practice. It has buoyed my art making and has saved me countless hours of time.
It really is quite simple. And it is this:
Changes come more easily when you are making your Art than when you are away and merely thinking about it.
I used to do a lot of worrying and fretting in the middle of the night about whether my work was good enough or how I might fix certain problems. I would spend considerable time looking at other artists’ work to see if maybe the answers might lie there. It wasn’t that worrying and spending time searching the Internet for answers wasn’t helpful, as sometimes it did shed some light onto my challenges. However, it just became tiring to be always thinking about the difficulty in my art 24/7.
I was involved in the struggle of making art even when I wasn’t making art, which was pretty much most of my day. So I stopped. I realized that if I just postponed worrying about the art till I actually was in front of it that I could save myself hours of needless time focusing on trying to solve imagined problems.
And then I found out something wonderful and surprising.
I came to see that solving the problems and improving my art was far easier to do when I was actually in front of it, than when I was out to dinner 5 hours later with friends or even trying to sleep. It seems obvious now but it took me years to figure this out.
Additionally, much to my surprise, rarely were the imagined problems, the ones I was constantly thinking about when I was not making art, as difficult or as complicated as they turned out to be once I was. Things just were not that bad once in my studio listening to Earl Klugh on my Bose headphones and proactively making real changes to my art.
My father used to say to me that our problems, our challenges in life will never look bigger, feel more daunting than they do at 2 am in the silent darkness of a sleepless night. I think there is a lot of truth to this. Context matters.
There is no burning imperative to figure everything out remotely, when you cannot even see your art. You don’t have to do it the hard way. Avoiding this pattern will free up a huge amount of time and energy for when you are actually making art.
Instead of overly thinking everything, spend the time you are not making art doing those things that inspire and make you feel alive. It is, after all, the richness, the quality of the time you spend not making art, that so powerfully and poetically effects the time when you do.
In gratitude, Nicholas