This post is about part of the creative process that I seldom, if ever, see discussed. Probably because it’s unpleasant. Probably because it doesn’t make for good copy. Probably, because it is not shiny.
This post is about the dirty little secret that underpins all creative endeavour.
Would you like to know what it is?
Let me tell you a story…
Early last week, I was not a happy bunny…
I was grumpy. Morose. Frustrated. Darkness had snuck into my life thru an open window and, with every passing day, sought to obscure my view of the sun a little more. This feeling had built slowly, like the rising pressure in a diving bell, until it was almost a physical sensation. A deep, heavy and iron-wrought constipation of the spirit. World-sized, and growing worse by the hour…
Actually, wait a sec. It started before that. Let’s back up…
A little while before the blackness began to ensue I had started recording sessions for a new piece of music, centered around the cello. The problem was, I hadn’t recorded cello before. Ever. And, try as I might, I couldn’t find the right way to coax the music I was making out of the air and onto the hard drive. Something was constantly being lost in translation. No matter how long, or how thoroughly I searched, I couldn’t find the bridge across the river. Each day I would sketch out a new route, and each day I would again be turned away, thwarted and unproductive. As the aborted attempts began to pile up, I started to feel more and more clogged…
It got to the point that the feeling was an almost physical pain. Which sounds like a totally sappy thing to say, but it’s true nonetheless. An infinite, stubborn and leering cramp of the soul.
But, (and here is the rub) it truthfully didn’t worry me. At all. In fact, on some level, I had even been expecting it. Why? Because this is not my first rodeo.
Over the many years I have been making art, I have noticed there is a repeating emotional pattern that runs in parallel to the process of creating and finishing stuff. Before I: have a breakthru, finish making something cool, or level-up in some fashion, I get this certain feeling. Like the pressure of a building storm. Like nothing is working, everything is slowing down. Like nothing is good. This feeling is a creative constant. And it occurs at some point in the process, every single time.
It’s not a good feeling. In fact it’s downright unpleasant. At the time, the most natural thing to do seems to be: to move away, to medicate, to escape or get angry. To do anything to just make it stop. Anything for surcease.
But the truth is: in art, as in life, not everything unpleasant is necessarily bad. This is an absolutely crucial distinction. Whether it be in reference to art, physical exercise, a relationship, or anything else, one of the most priceless jewels offered up by experience is the real, hard-won knowledge that, sometimes: unpleasant is necessary.
Sometimes, it’s just part of the process. And No Big Deal.
And so I just kept doing the work. Then, last Friday, I woke, sketched out a different path, and began my practice.
And found myself standing on the other side of the river. ;-)
(If you follow me on twitter you probably saw me raving about it. If not, then here it is in all it’s twittery glory:)
The process of making art is no great thing of mystery. Keep showing up. Keep doing the work no matter how you feel. Keep finishing things, and keep starting new things. If you work hard and well you will get better. This is what it means to be a working artist. This is the job.
The music I am making now is very new. And very different. I am going to be talking about it in greater depth soon, when I know for sure what it is. And, when it’s done, I promise you’ll get to hear it.
Until then: Thanks for reading this, I hope you get something from it, and I wish you well.
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.
Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things. If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.
And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter: