Creative Call to Action: Process in Process

A few weeks ago I wrote a big piece for my blog and oh, it was wonderful. The words came so easily. I knew without thinking just how to make each transition from thought to thought. I needed to do some revision, sure, but the whole thing arrived like a fully-formed dream and got a great response from my readers. So I knew that I hadn’t been mistaken – it was good, and it was easy. The best kind of work.

Not long after that I had to write another big piece. It was hard. Every word hurt. I couldn’t get a sentence out without wanting to revise it as I wrote. I started, stopped, and started. I thought about the piece throughout the day and at night, taking messy notes on post-its by my nightstand. I asked other people to read it and give me feedback. I formed it, reformed it, and fussed.

I feared I would never make anything good ever again.

But then, finally, it was polished and actually good. This piece also got a great response from my readers. So I knew I wasn’t mistaken – it had been forged in struggle and came out great. The best kind of work.

I don’t think any reader could tell there was such a difference in the making of the work. The end result was the same. But the the second time around, I was attached to the Easy Way as my process, as How I Do Things. I was expecting ease to lead to greatness and when it wasn’t happening that way, I got flustered.

I think as artists we are often taught, or teach ourselves, to have A Way. Our Personal Process. This can serve us well. I love creating habits, for instance; they can be a shortcut to getting in the groove.

But over-attachment to a certain process, ritual, or state of mind can just lead to stuckness and resistance.

I’ve heard (and believed myself) many of these attachments over the years. Only being able to create while sad or upset. Or happy. Or only during the day or night. Only being able to work in a tidy or chaotic studio. Only when it comes easy and inspired, only when it’s a grind. Only when at my absolute best, most healthy, or most wild.

The truth is, we don’t really need any of these states to make our work.

Each moment of making is different. There’s no one perfect state or process to deliver an idea or execute a concept.

We as creatives are multifaceted, dynamic people. It’s just how we roll. So the next time something is not going how I think it should, I’m just going to try to accept that as my process for the day (not for life). I will do, and make do. And go with it.

That’s my Creative Call to Action for you:

Accept that your process is in process.

Accept that you may have multiple ways of getting to the same place. And enjoy the ride.

Are you attached to a certain process or state of mind for creating your work? Do you hold certain beliefs about when you can create and how it should feel?

10 thoughts on “Creative Call to Action: Process in Process

  1. I can still hear the words of my high school art teacher to students who said they weren’t in the mood to create, or they weren’t inspired: Making art is 99% hard work and maybe 1% inspiration or mood. If you want to be an artist, you’ll get up and work hard every day, no matter how you feel. Those words have been a kick in the pants for me, anytime I haven’t ‘felt like’ making, creating, or working on a project.

  2. This is perfect. It’s so easy to pigeonhole ourselves and make excuses to not create because we get ourselves all hung up on weird ideas like being in the perfect mood or having enough energy, etc. Not that I’VE ever done that, nope. Totally enlightened here.

  3. wow, that’s a hard & good one that I better take some notes on.
    Thank you for that, strong message. Perfect timing for me.

  4. i’m agree with you, i think we use those arguments to not finishing our work.LOL
    but… i have noticed that i use differend colours in differend moods.
    like i was working on a piggyangel bag. the pig had beautiful wings but the colour of blue was too hard the whole time.
    i was at that moment in a sad mood and when i’m … then i use always bright and not soft colours.LOL
    so it tooks my weeks to find the right heavently blue colour for her skin.LOL
    so mood can conflict our work as well-S
    Now i know this and i always be careful with the choice of colours i will pick for my work.
    But…. i love to work the whole time, and it’s helping to let all the materials all around me , i love to work with all the things on the same messy floor were i will sitt in between.LOl
    but… that’s my way to work on my artwork and because my hands aren’t good anymore i let fallen all the things out of them, so when i’m sitting in my mess on the floor i don’t have to seek too much because it will lay next to me.LOL

  5. Maeg, what a great, inspiring article! I definitely believe in creating no matter the mood, as difficult as that can be. I think you just have to if you want to go into any creative field! Learning to work past that feeling of not really wanting to start working is really rewarding, in my opinion.

  6. This article swirled with me all day. I balance a day job and night work to make ends meet. The inspiration to work at the creative process during evenings has become a bit of a struggle… although the works persevere whenever I hear wisdom from words such as these. Thank you.

  7. Love this post. We’re a creative company, but I work on the production end. Taking all the beautiful designs and making them into the final product. Sometimes it just flows, and sometimes for whatever reason the process is more difficult (a piece is harder to translate to the wall, a mental block ect). Anyway, thanks for another helpful post. As long as we all keep moving forward we’re all going in the right direction!

  8. @Jennifer–Absolutely. I have a part-time creative day job and a small child, so my time for my own creative biz is very focused and clear cut…which means I really have to *snap* into it when that time arrives! There are definitely times, especially in the winter, where I would love to cozy up with cocoa and a book for three hours instead of painting or writing. In the end I’m happier to push through the resistance (although I’m all for finding those little cozy moments, too!)

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