Monday, November 21, 2011

The Break-in

Most of the time, the internal call to create, to activate artistic vision (be it through writing, or otherwise creating with my hands) feels like a wild beast.. a roaring and grizzly face that comes out from within to stare me down and demand productivity. It's an indispensable urging, but even so, feels like a monster of a task the majority of the time.

Sometimes though, the calling exudes a kind of glowing allure, and rather than demanding, it feels as a seductive beckoning... an irresistible desire to get moving and making before the wave of motivation washes out..

But those times are infrequent for me, and I feel lucky to be so inspired on such occasions that I'm immediately compelled to drop whatever nonsense I'm up to to give time and energy to the good work of creating. Typically though, as is the case when staring into the more beastly face of art, I'm faced with the challenge of persuading myself into action in the absence of inspiration. I recall Picasso's quote, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.."

This is a true and bittersweet recognition; it's encouraging to know that action produces momentum to continue, and sometimes momentum is enough if pressing inspiration is nowhere to be found. The only difficulty then, is getting started: how do you get moving before momentum or inspiration have even awoke? (I'm sure procrastinators of the world, in whatever field or discipline, can unite in this struggle.) In fact, I face the same exact dilemma with exercise, because unless there's a soccer ball involved, working out has very little appeal when I'm comfortable at home. So a few months back I started trying a sneaky back-door approach, to see if I could coax myself by only committing to a deceptively small amount of exercise. 10 minutes was the expectation, no more no less. As it turns out, it is 100% inevitable that once I've finished the 10 minutes, once I've begun to sweat, I want more. After experiencing the most minute accomplishment, I wonder how much more I could push myself...

So I figure this approach has got to work for my artistic life as well, but what is the break-in? What small fragment of the process will lure me into the work? it must be manageable, non-intimidating, and virtually impossible to deny the ease of. When it comes to writing, the task is daunting for many reasons ("What's the point? I don't know what to write about. I suck. I haven't got the time..." and so on.), so what if my lure tactic was to require simply that I sit down and write 200 words; they don't need to amount to anything cohesive, they don't need to glow with genius, there simply must be 200 of them. It can be the worst combination of sentences I've ever composed, and with that, I require that I be completely satisfied.

If the expectation is simply that I sit down and write something shitty, then the barrier of intimidation is obliterated {mission accomplished!} and 99.9% of the time that I've done this, by the time I hit the 200 word minimum I'm actually believing I have more to contribute to the page, and I crave to continue. Perhaps this is what Picasso felt, as though inspiration creeps by your door every so often, peeking in silently to see what you're up to. When I'm found complaining and making excuses to evade work, he backs away, because who would want to work with a whining artist? But when I'm found quietly working in his absence, he enters, pleased, and pulls up a chair.