I see the artistic process as analogous to war in a lot of ways…
I am aware that this is, perhaps, a very male view; yet it still holds true for me. In some ways, creating art, or doing anything, involves an internal process in which we encounter opposing forces that, if left unattended, will thwart us from our purpose. I have experienced this over and over, both in my life and also in music. In fact, one of, if not the central investigation of my life has been how to deal with these energies, how to use them, dissolve them, transmute them into something of worth. I have found that this process is inextricably joined with my happiness level. The better I have become at this process, the happier I have become in my life. This is a big part of the reason that I do music. It makes me happy. Or, to be more precise, the process of making music, has the effect of allowing me greater happiness. It’s a kind of positive addiction.
My other favourite analogy is that of The Gardener. This would be the softer side of art. To be skilled at: working with the land and seeds that you have; tending to the things that you are growing, watering them optimally with your attention, pulling out any weeds and making any adjustments that are necessary for their growth. In other words, doing the daily work. (To read a fuller post about this analogy, click here).
In my experience you need to be both. Both are vital. You have to be a Warrior in order to, daily, fight your way to the garden. But once inside, you need to be the Gardener who tends with no thought of what he or she gets from the process, confident that the garden will bear fruit in it’s own time. It’s very Zen ;-)
This is maybe a simplistic analogy, but I like simple ideas.
I like philosophy that you can apply and see if it works. Ideas that can actually make life better. I studied philosophy for my university degree and found that there were, (in my view) 2 different types of ideas. There were ideas that you could apply in your own life, that could help you to further your own understanding and/or be happier; and there were ideas that were incredibly elaborate, subtle and intricate systems of thought; very beautiful to comprehend but ultimately, only a kind of mental masturbation; a chew toy for the mind that held no real worth save distraction from the real struggle. I favour the former.
I find that books can be invaluable in this regard. Books and other media can contain ideas that can be applied to your life in order to improve it. I am re-reading one of my favourite books on the subject of the artistic process: ‘The War Of Art’ by Steven Pressfield. It is a kind of manual on how to do the work, whatever that means for you. It defines the process in terms of overcoming a force that Pressfield terms as ‘Resistance’. The most valuable thing that the book does is: it re-defines the process and it’s constituent parts in a way that brings great clarity. Subsequently, it becomes very easy to see what you should do, and then actually do that thing.
As A final note, I don’t think that any of this is the exact way things actually are. To state that would be hubris; inaccurate and arrogant. The things I have talked of here are like best-fit stories that I have gradually evolved and refined over my life. They are as close to the truth of things, that I have been able to get. How do I know that they’re close? Because they have an actual effect on my real-life and my real happiness levels. When I bear these ideas in mind, I make better decisions and right actions flow easily. But it’s all a work in progress.
I am offering my perspective here because, I figure that, if it works for me, if it makes my life better, then it might have some worth for you too.
I hope you are well, wherever you are.
My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist. If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music. Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.
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