Today, I had a discussion with a dear friend (and former roommate) who lives in Paris.
He is a beautiful, quiet, artistic soul who is a filmmaker, and (published in France, soon-to-be published in the US & UK!) writer, with whom I have heart-to-hearts via FaceTime every couple of weeks. Our talks always hearten me, comfort me, and inspire me. He is too humble and modest to maybe fully believe me - but his is a golden light of companionship in a world that can feel so lonely and isolating: the artistic world inside of us.
Today, I really needed to hear someone tell me this, and I, in turn, will tell you:
Your creative process is valid.
Your creative process is however the work comes out.
Your creative process isn't how a million books, experts, other artists, friends, mentors, or your heroes tell you it should be.
Your creative process is YOURS.
Droplets or Deluge
It's only(!) taken me until now, the age of 32, to recognize, and (fitfully) embrace my own creative process. I have a confession to make: I am a droplet-creator. I work in dribs and drabs, little droplets from the font of inspiration. I get an idea, a line, a snippet of a melody, or a sliver of verse in my head, and I scribble it down. I can maybe write one or two more lines, but usually, more often than not: THAT IS IT. No more from me today. Sometimes I do get the onslaught, the deluge, the purging of something big that just comes OUT, all at once. That is the absolute best. I cherish those treasured pieces. But, more often than not, it is inglorious, unglamorous, and, honestly, kind of mundane: I patch the pieces together, build on it, little by excruciatingly little, until, one day....I have some Thing. Even writing this now, in the name of accepting one's creative process, I feel like a slacker. I should lock myself in a room for 7 hours! Not emerge until I have a finished product, for better or worse! I should force pen to paper and my mind to the task of Creating! But, alas, I don't create anything of any damn worth that way. The more I force it, the more trite, the more crappy the writing and the ensuing product. You should see just some of the crap I can come up with when I'm forced to write. It's....special.
I'd LOVE to be one of those people who could sit for HOURS writing, writing, writing. Getting lost in the flow. And, you know...I DO. Eventually. But for me, the magical state known as "The Flow" doesn't honestly happen until there's more meat on the bones. Everything up to that point is, honestly, frustratingly slow. I'd LOVE to be prolific, churning out material every day, every couple of days, or even every couple of months. But, alas....I'm not.
And, newsflash: Willing my process to be different and beating myself up about it haven't changed it. Neither makes me more prolific, nor does it make me feel inspired. Pressuring myself to CREATE doesn't make me feel creative. It just makes me feel pressured. You know what stifles creativity? Feeling tense, stressed, or pressured. Hello, vicious cycle.
Organization & Chaos
Talking to my friend today, he said something really meaningful. He said that when he started writing his now-published book, that it was A MESS. He'd start writing for the Intro, only to find he needed to then pivot to writing for the 4th Chapter. He said it made little to no sense whatsoever - and only until he got the whole thing assembled, did it start to make any semblance of sense at all.
I realized I have been had two different factions fighting for control: The Organizer, and The Dreamer. The Dreamer NEEDS the space to create, needs the space to not follow a train of thought, needs the space to play, needs to be almost be tricked into another brain-space altogether; in essence, it needs the chaos. The Organizer, on the other hand, NEEDS things to be linear, to take shape in a way that makes sense, to be built step-by-step in a practical step-by-step process; it abhors the chaos. Each is there to help me, but I'm not letting either do its job at the appropriate moment: I'm trying to honor them both by letting them both run amok at the same time. And that just ain't gonna work. I need to allow for the chaos, for the raw, unfiltered thoughts, emotions, word associations, weird (potentially crap) ideas to have their moment to get messy and make a mess of everything. Once I honor The Dreamer's needs to get out what it needs to get out - in the way it needs to get it out - then I can open the door, and let The Organizer be the taskmaster, cleaning up, making sense, tightening the loose ends.
Is my process the way I wish it looked? Not exactly. It would be so much easier to be able to follow a process, an outline, churn out material like nobody's business. But the all-or-nothing approach doesn't work for me; neither does trying to force my process into a mold of what I think, or read, that it should be.
What's your creative process? How do you work best? What do you notice happens naturally, when you're not forcing it?
Honor that. Find what works for you, and do it, in as little or as big of chunks as your process dictates. Is it weird? Never heard of anyone doing it like that? Is it mind-numbingly boring and normal? Is it mundane? Is it completely round-about? GREAT. DO THAT.
I'm wishing you all more peace with your process, and more adventure within it.