Storms and Blue Skies / A Dirty Little Secret…

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…

Storms

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.

– J


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.

Get 3 Free Tracks Now.

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:

242 Replies to “Storms and Blue Skies / A Dirty Little Secret…”

  1. I feel you. It’s like a test…a national broadcast test…you know the one. A whiny, high pitch, ants on the screen, and blaring noise test. Then, it gets quiet…when you make to the other side of the project, and voila! You’ve done it. I go through the same thing with designs. Occasionally I get a blissful day where I just sit down and it all comes together without a hitch. But, come on, that RARELY happens. I also rarely chuck a project that just won’t come together. I usually just take space or time which usually means I was in the wrong space or time initially. Oh, well, whoever said life or creativity comes easy was full of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a truly beautiful way to put it. Perfect.
      I know exactly what you mean. I think that the process of creating something is fairly standard, no matter what field you are working in, and I also think that it gets romanticised and mystified WAY too much. It’s important for us to throw our experience out there and have others say: ‘Wow! Me Too!’. ;-) I think it’s also important to dispel the myth that it’s all peachy keen rainbow time when you are an artist.
      (And, I love your last sentence.)
      Thanks for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment. Made me happy.
      Have a great day,
      – J

      Like

                  1. THAT is incredible James! Fess up – you used a calculator right? ;)
                    Got a fire going this end tonight… sure is creeping in now. Long nights for lots of creative pondering and dreaming :D

                    Like

  2. I saw the almost comments when I came back after the Columbus Day weekend here on this side of the pond. This is a better medium IMNERHO for Twitter can only allow for 140 character insights at a pop. 5 of them in a row left me split between whether I was reading between you having a manic moment or revelation. I erred on the side of optimism and see that your entry here on wordpress reinforces it.

    As I finish up my day here at my mother’s watching her monster child (a hefty 9.5 stone Chocolate Labrador with abandoment issues), while’s she’s headed out for the moment for another mammography (no I’m not stalking you, though it does appear that way sometimes)… I stand by my words there on twitter about energy following thought. No, it’s not your first rodeo. No those negative energies are not bad and not the end ot the world. I sense the intent, but I don’t see the words.

    The question that I have is, what is your catharsis? What is that moment you reach purgation from the negative to create in the positive? For in your words (I see) you’re letting go of something in order to realize and actuate your passion, love and expression in music. What is it (you’re letting go of)?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there,
      First, thanks for your engagement – I find it to be very stimulating, both here and on twitter.
      ;-) It was more of a much needed outbreath than a manic moment, I am glad you were optimistic tho. I appreciate your confidence in me.
      As to the answer to your question, I’m afraid I don’t have a good one. A lot of the internal process is a mystery to me. I try to speak only from things that I am sure of. I DO know that this process, this moving thru some kind of resistance is a constant in any creative endeavour, for me (and for others, it seems), but as to what that actually is, or what it means? No idea.
      I really love our interactions, they make me smile.
      I hope you are well,
      – J

      Like

      1. Mr. Radcliffe –

        It is alwats a process that all artistic types move through. The walls of resistance be it the constructs of forces seen from an external point of view (brought internally) or entirely internal are created. They are later atrophied or obliterated in order for those self-imposed limitations to be exceeded. Hence how harmony is achieved through conflict to convey the messages held within to those that we reach out to in the form of writing, poetry, music and art. It’s unfortunate you haven’t yet found the fulcrum within yourself (yet).

        I’ve learned the fulcrum of my purgation within the last 6 years (and still trying to master it). It’s a 2-step process of consciously willing myself to stop whatever over-analysis, being over-emotional, fighting harsh self-criticism, catering to all sorts of distractions and even to stop the endless multitasking I might be doing at the time I decide to *create*: be it writing such as this or making a fractal for a desktop wallpaper. Then it’s taking advantage of something taught to me when I was young to deal with my hypoglycemia… of finding emotional equilibrium. Once everything within me has actually stopped moving and a sort of spiritual entropy has been created. After that? I create…

        Here’s to helping you find that fulcrum. And when you do remember this. Discovery of that does not take away the magic of how it works. Instead it’s learning how to make your own magic.

        Always,
        Michael Andrew

        Like

  3. Reblogged this and commented:
    Just returned from Ireland, and am not back in the groove here on the home front. As I want through the bodacious backlog of emails, I found this on point post from James Radcliffe. As a creative person yourself, I think you’ll be able to relate. Here’s James…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there, ;-)
      Thanks so much for this. And thanks for the sharing, I’m really glad you liked it and you are very kind.
      What were you up to in Ireland?
      Hope this finds you well, and back in the groove. ;-)
      – J x

      Like

  4. Greetings My beloved Artist and Warrior. I totally resonated with this feeling/journey. I too, have been on this path, and wow, the metaphor of the spirit being constipated! Yes I am in agreement that all the pain, all triumphs, all the yucky icky stuff that so often beats us down and tempts us to give up and not continue with our internal artistic gems, is what keeps us from creating such. Thank you much for sharing this and it brings me joy to know you are now on a path of creating beautiful melodies! I look forward to hearing them. Peace, Light, Love, Bliss and Perseverance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there Beautiful Dancer,
      I am really glad that you liked it. I think that it’s a really important topic. I think it’s time we demystified the artistic process across the board. It’s important for artists who are starting out to know that there is hard work, and that this is OK and standard.
      I can’t wait for you to hear the new music, it is sounding really beautiful. (And I think it could be eminently dance-able) ;-)
      Big love to you,
      – J x

      Like

  5. Totally relate to this James! So true for me too… I nearly always experience a burst of growth after I make it through the whispers of stuckness, saying ‘this is it.. that’s all you’ve got, all you’ll ever have, it’s over’.

    I’ve studied psychology and once I learned and came to understand that conscious incompetence is actually the SECOND stage of the learning process… like yourself, I am able now to recognise it instead as progress (not failure) and that the next stage is where I get to be competent.. consciously before automatically. Before I became conscious of ‘not being able to do it’.. I didn’t even know I couldn’t do it! Lol… Progress!

    Love this post.. thank you ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are very welcome.
      I love that you ground your understanding in psychology. I think that this is really important.
      I also love your ‘whispers of stuckness’… ;-)
      Thanks a lot for this comment, I’m really glad that you stopped by and took the time to write.
      Have a great day, you,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this piece…was exactly what I needed to hear being in the midst of the storm you speak of! Trying to press through to the other side yet feeling a bit lost…so ready for the breakthrough of where this call I have on my life is going! Pressing on!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey there,
      I’m really glad that you got something from it. Sounds like it arrived at just the right time.
      Keep on going, I am sure that you’ll breakthru soon. It’ll be worth it! ;-)
      Have a good one, and thanks for stopping by,
      – J

      Like

  7. Amen, brother. That’s where the true artist shines, because he has learned, through thousands of excruciating moments of creative practice, that nothing it brought into this world without keen effort, pain, tremendous focus and tenacity…and perhaps most importantly, in recognizing the flash of genius when it appears.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Perfect. This comment is just perfect.
      I completely agree. I think it is important that artists talk about this side of creativity. The fact that there is hard work involved doesn’t really fit the myth of the romantic artist, but I think that it’s vital to know if you’re starting out on this journey.
      Really glad to hear from you, Chris. How are things with you?
      (And, do you mind the ‘Chris’?)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Perhaps one reason why this particular aspect of the process isn’t discussed much is because we’re too busy focusing on the nuances of our creative process, afraid that we’ll miss that flash of brilliance when it appears…ephemeral and precious. In fact, it is such an incredibly beautiful piece of a much greater mystery, to mention it might be to banish it forever.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You may be right. It is strange how we separate out ‘art’ from things like fixing cars, laying brick or teaching. People need to start telling the truth about the ‘Work, of Art’. You up for it, Christ? ;-)
          We could start a revolution…
          – J

          Liked by 1 person

Click Here To Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s