Whatever, and however we create, there will always be a natural evolution of our work.
Biologically, our cells are being replaced at a rate of millions per second, and just as we’re not exactly the same person day after day – and as new experiences shape us – our art will change too.
This doesn’t mean we’ll radically reinvent ourselves with each new project, and discard all we’ve ever done before.
It just means we’re on a gradual, progressive curve, ever upwards, rather than attempting huge steps and immense leaps, where the next one always looks (and usually is) insurmountable.
So to allow for this kind of evolution, we cannot be production line robots, churning out the exact same work over and over again with steely unfaltering precision.
We’re not machines. We’re not computers.
We’re human beings.
There are ways we can lead our creative lives which help us to let this evolution gently unfold, to leave the door ajar, and to let the beauty slip in.
Let’s consider five stages, or elements:
1. Show up.
You can’t create anything – beautiful or otherwise – if you don’t show up. This means literally, and physically, making time to create every day.
It also means when you show up physically, you need to show up with a readiness and a willingness to create. You need to put pencil to paper, fingers to keys, brush to canvas, the fullest and most honest way you can, and see what comes.
If you create in exactly the same way every single time, never exploring even the tiniest deviation in any aspect of your creative process, you’ll likely produce very similar work each time.
This might be fine over short periods, where you’re working on a specific series for example, but over time it becomes monotonous and predictable, with diminishing reward for you as creator, and for your audience. We need experiments, however tiny.
3. Allow space for mistakes.
This follows on from the previous stage. Once you start experimenting, you need to take enough risks, and make enough changes to allow a few mistakes to happen. Yes, mistakes.
Once you do, you greatly increase the likelihood of happy accidents, and discovering new pathways to creating that you never could have found if you had stuck to a safe and tried and tested path time and time again. Now, with the door ajar, the beauty starts to slip in.
4. Separate creating from editing.
When you’re creating, create, don’t try to judge and edit your work as you go, as the focus required is different and it’s likely to interrupt your creative flow. Just create, let the happy accidents unfold, follow the pathways that appear and gather what comes. It will come in abundance.
You could see this as mining the raw beauty to refine later, gathering up armfuls of jewels of all kinds to take home with you, and only then, when the harvesting is done, choosing which to keep and polish up further and which to discard. Which leads us to…
5. Expect to discard plenty.
When you follow the four stages above, inevitably there will be material and ideas discarded. Your studio, metaphorically, will look like a tailor’s workshop floor at the end of a prolific day, strewn with ragged offcuts of all kinds of materials that didn’t get used.
But then, when you raise your eyes to the mannequins around the edges of the room, you’ll see the exquisite garments you’ve been able to make by creating with enough space around your work to let your originality and wonder seep in.
“Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack, a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.”
– Anthem, Leonard Cohen
Create with courage, leave your door ajar. You’ll find the beauty not only slipping in, but returning over and over again.
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