In this episode I will discuss how the world of creativity can be extremely frustrating. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows (even if you paint them). How many times have you been working on a problem and found yourself back at the beginning? Yes, you have more knowledge and experience, but you still are no closer to the solution you are trying to achieve. Or are you? Check out some solutions that I have to get you past square one.
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[00:00:00] Welcome I'm Kristi Backman. This is my podcast, Cultivating Creativity. It's about helping you build your creative life. Giving creatives a way to make space for artistic growth through the insights for the mind of an artist, instructor and art coach about the creative process and living that crazy creative life.
[00:00:27] In this episode. We'll discuss how the world of creativity can be extremely frustrating. It's not all unicorns and rainbows, even if you paint them. How many times have you been working on a problem and found yourself back at the beginning? Yes, you have more knowledge and experience, but you're still no closer to the solution you're trying to achieve… or are you? Check out some solutions that I have to get you past square one.
[00:00:57] First, let's discuss the art of trying to achieve and create forward momentum. I'm not one for video games, but as a kid, I played enough Mario to know that when my character died, I learned what killed him and I avoided it the next time. So even though I had to start at the beginning, again, I was able to get further with each attempt.
[00:01:20] So be willing to try. You have to be willing to try. I know that sounds basic, but so many people just don't try. They may be scared and unsure or create excuses to avoid the whole issue. Does this sound familiar? It should. We're all guilty of this. It can take some time to gear up to try something new. But why not try?
[00:01:42] Something that may help, think about all the things that you have tried that worked out, consider all the amazing things you do and have, because you took that first step. And if you want to be negative and dwell on the things that didn't work, I challenge you to really consider the results. What did that event lead to?
[00:02:00] One thing that really helps me is that I know that I end up with something of value regardless of the results. When I was looking for a new medium to make my sculptures, it was all about trial and error. I tried tons of new materials. I tried old materials in new ways. I tried combining materials. If I had allowed myself to be influenced by others, I would have never come to the solution I have now, which is amazing by the way, I use fiberglass. I had a specific problem to solve, and I set out to find a new solution. Sometimes our creative work manifests in specific questions. While other times it's more about abstract concepts.
[00:02:40] I remember thinking at one point that my art was "missing something". Well, that's vague as hell. But it was all I had to go on. So, I began to experiment. It's all about identifying a direction and then just going for it. What really do you have to lose? Some time, some materials? In the end you will gain more than you lose.
[00:03:01] Next, be willing to fail. The risk of trying something new is failure. Or is it? In my opinion, the only real failure is not to try. For those who have the courage to do something new, there is only learning and growth. No matter the result. There is so much fear of failure. But what if we flip how we look at that? Consider a failure as a badge of honor, because it shows that you had the guts to try.
[00:03:28] What I want to know is where in the world did that idea of ‘failure is bad’ come from? Where did it get its negative connotation? This is a critical step in the learning process. What does failure even mean? Merriam Webster defines it as a ‘lack of success.’ Okay, fine. But I still say it's just a step in the process. It's only the end of the story, if you stop there.
[00:03:52] Another issue with failure is control. Sometimes we control the factors involved and sometimes we don't. Some things are simply outside of our control. If nothing else COVID has taught us all that lesson. When we run into things we can't control, it's important to identify what we can… our response and our reaction. There is power in our response, wield that power intentionally.
[00:04:17] What if we consider the idea of failure as an observation on whether something works or not? Take away the negative connotation, remove its association with defeat or inadequacy and begin to view it as a step in the creative process. I think so many creatives are afraid to really experiment as they see the individual experimentations as tied to their identity as an artist. So, if they fail at the experiment, then they're not really an artist. Is that true? No! Experimentation is a critical component of creative growth. Now, I'm not saying this is easy. As Henry Matisse said, “creativity takes courage.”
[00:04:57] Be willing to try again. It takes courage to try again. But this is where amazing things begin to happen. You are now armed with the knowledge you gained in the previous attempts, you have a clear vision of the goal and more understanding of what it will take to get there. You know, that old proverb, “if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.” That's actually excellent advice. Keep going.
[00:05:23] Watching a small child learn to walk is honestly very inspirational. They get up, they fall down, they get up, they fall down, over and over again. They keep going until they master the technique. Now they do have a couple advantages. First, they're really close to the ground. So, falling is not all that bad. Second, and most importantly, they know walking is possible. They see us doing it. So, they just keep at it until they get it. When we're exploring something new, we don't always have the same advantage of knowing it's possible. But we can still approach it the same way, with persistence.
[00:05:59] If we really believe in what we're working towards, then the only way is forward. Think about all the things that we wouldn't have today, if their creators just quit. I love the quote by Edison about his process of inventing the light bulb. “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that it won't work.”
[00:06:19] That's genius. And, boy, can I relate to that. But as we have light bulbs now, he totally did succeed. Think about how much work went into that process. It illustrates true love and commitment to an idea. How dedicated are you to yours? And in the end, if it doesn't work, what could you learn along the way? Is that really a waste of time?
[00:06:42] Understand, it's a process. This is the creative process. If we know exactly how to get from a to B, then there's really no mystery. And no need for exploration. Someone else has already figured it out. All knowledge is built on previous knowledge. And it all started as a process of experimentation. It can be as specific as using some version of the scientific method or as informal as play. As a reminder, the scientific method is observation leads to question leads to hypothesis leads to experiment, leads to analysis, which leads to the conclusion.
[00:07:22] Using the scientific method is actually very natural for creative minds. I was not all that interested in the realm of science when I was in school. So, when I ran into the scientific method, I was surprised that it felt so natural to me. This didn't mean that I liked the tedious forms we had to use in lab class, but rather the process itself truly resonated with me. I have used its basic structure over and over to learn and explore new things. But I'm fairly analytical by nature.
[00:07:52] For some, this may seem way too structured. They may prefer more of a play method. I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but it's really not. Abraham Maslow says, “All creativity involves purposeful play.” Play allows for experimentation without pressure. While focusing on the joy of the activity, we are open to solutions and new possibilities. The idea of failure is removed, and the attention is completely on the action itself. Because play is not about reaching a specific goal or conclusion, it allows for that very thing. But even if no notable results occur, we still have had the experience of the play. Which is valuable in and of itself.
[00:08:34] You have something you want to achieve? Who said it was supposed to be easy? Who said it was supposed to be resolved on the first try? The question really becomes How bad do you want to achieve your goal? Remember, we can't always control the outcome, but we can control our reaction. So, what will yours be? Will you keep trying, do you really want to succeed?
[00:08:55] Sometimes we need a little help or direction in this process. Another creative mind that can see more objectively and help you along your journey. A bit of clarity can make a big difference. check out my Strategy Session, where I help you create clarity in your art practice.
[00:09:11] I hope you found this helpful. We all get stuck here. It's part of the gig, use these tips and techniques to change your mindset about the experience and keep moving forward. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe to my podcast and leave a review and follow me on Instagram, until next time!