Over the last eight months I decided to take a closer inspection of my personal creative process. A logical and systematic study of the methodology and symptoms of each of the passages I work through, in correlation with creative patterns I had already ascertained. Each time I decide what I want to achieve next, I go through this process. We all live an emotional line which waves and dips, yet I feel compelled to share my recognition of some of the more difficult side to being able to make ideas become tangible, because this part is very rarely discussed and I believe, it’s actually the most important and valuable part.
Each time incrementally the stakes get higher; as in I propel myself though a more challenging state of change with more audacious projects because the evaluation of my limits, the risk involved and skill base has changed and grown. These ‘states’ are not all pretty, and although there is a lot of understanding out there about making and creating; the therapeutic outlet or physical result and beauty of creativity, very few people talk about the complications and challenging passages within the same context. 'Creative Process' is just art wank snobbery- we all live this pattern in varying degrees; where I draw another does sums, where I fly another gardens... 'creativity', in my opinion, essentially is listening to yourself and what makes you fizz.
Growing up in Wellington, an uber artistic town, has given me a unique insight into how we think, make and behave, and how this works and shapes a community. What I have noticed through my own life, and by being gifted with the ability to critique and reflect on my own process is that the ‘down’ side is right where the intervention of medicine, detrimental clinical and social evaluation and the labelling of psychological ‘disorders’ or symptoms (either self diagnosed or external) can come in. Raise the hands for a stress jammer, a blank out, pain relief and a comfort giver; Western culture point ya fingers at eccentric, out-there, weird, crazy or sick. I think this is also why a lot of people hide away and deal with these patches in private- it’s not easy not having it together all the time, and who wants to open themselves up to others for judgement on top of it?!
In the past I have tried all sorts of different strategies for self-help in these times and it is in these periods that if the sensitive creative brain is allowed to go a little too loose in it’s own attempt to remedy itself, that the shit can start to go pretty pear shaped. The most powerful help is talking. Why I am talking and writing is because as we evolve and become better at doing things, humans also become less tolerant to fixing bumps with hard work and time and want easy answers to bad stuff which is the better-at-doing-things brother from another mother. Re: previous post, ignorant appraisal is undone by open communication.
In my teens after battling with depression I tried medication. I lasted about two weeks. It made me feel ‘just below’ the living line and it killed any type of colour or creative spark I had in me. I felt in a fog, I feel beige and my vision and recognition of colours and concepts slid off and was muted. But I also knew that my behaviour was not helping. I was drinking heavily, I wasn't sleeping, I was in a very complex living situation, having just turned 16 I was at university and working to support myself; diet was completely up the whack and I was partying like a ninja- wild extravagant awesomeness but with complicated repercussions. I knew by being honest with myself, that that spark was actually my ticket to life and that my conduct and the situations I was into needed to be adjusted, NOT the spark.
I knew what I felt and I knew I had to work through organising myself by doing the hard yards or the alternative was mighty unappealing, also I could see a pattern and was intrigued about it- I knew then that the dark was as valid a part of my gift as the light. Plus I came up with some pretty cool stuff in those patches. I also had recognition from within my family that this was something I could learn how to manage and use to my advantage- very important opportunity there. I was encouraged to understand and to sense what happened or changed within myself and to notice patterns. My family heritage is very scientific/medical/mathematical and very creative/artistic (Oh and racing drivers, an art historian, explorers, a prime minister and persons of political standing, gold miners, a land information strategist, a missionary to China, agriculturalists, a bareback hose riding milliner- and that's only a selection of recent generations...umm rather strong willed souls…) but on track, what I want to illustrate is that patterns of thought and emotion were already recognised within my family- coupled with a ‘get on with it and sort it out’ attitude. I could talk my way in and around a psychoanalyst like a corkscrew; it was up to me to get through this, tbh- no-one else had the skills because no-one else had the whole back history of what happened and was happening, and it was so goddamn unusual and complex by that time I couldn't be bothered trying to explain it all.
3rd stage of creative process is the ‘this is shit/ I am shit’ area, Otherwise known as ‘going to ground’, ‘working through the nobblies’ or ‘dropping out of the system’; its not really physical, this very hardest part of the process is psychological, but it does have physical fallout. It. Is. Really. Difficult. It is where questioning, doubt, anixety, freakouts towards self abilities, self loathing and the unnerving state of living with a different brain activity resides. It is dark, can feel unending and hopeless, and very confusing. To me it feels like being shattered and rebuilt; not only in the project, but in my spirit. It is an integral part of the process, yah, pain and payoff, but as I have got older I have recognised I can also do something productive and target a mental attribute in here alongside working on an idea. I go for something that’s hindering me, festering and is a part of my soul that needs to be unpackaged, remedied and resolved. Not fixed- it’s not broken, it just needs some attention. It is a roadblock to the other side; undertaking has an open-ended timeframe, there is no schedule within this sector; its a progressive process, and it is extraordinary mentally and physically draining, but there is a wonderful feeling of success by getting over the Bog of Eternal Stench. Actually- it really is just like getting held up with Sir Didymus chewing the fat.
Let’s call this ‘going to ground’ as GTG for the sake of my digits and getting this out eh!
The symptoms can be pretty terrifying towards the climax of it- it seems to have an upward bell curve. Exhaustion, excema, hypna and hypnogogic (a type of pre and post-sleep sensory hallucination/ audio/ dream state that happens on the edge of consciousness), muscular tension, cravings (for all sorts of things, other ideas; relief really, it’s the point where we hit being creatively over it), very little quality sleep once ya finally get in there aaand the ‘racing-head-state’. This is when it is in hyperdrive. It really is nuts over this period and it can be very scary; continually bouncing around contemplating and searching for things. Once the key emotional concept or idea abstraction has been resolved and illuminated however, quite literally overnight, everything clears up. Actually, that’s kind of scary also because you could really be forgiven for thinking this is all completely nuts- because it is conceptual. There is no physical ball clinking down a slide saying ‘HEY! Ureka! You got it!!’ I just know within myself I’ve had a ‘Ureka!’ and that the circle has past GO again.
Lets roll with this ball image. Because I actually visualise my ideas like that. When I am thinking about what I want to do next, what I'm aspiring towards, what helps others and what is challenging; + if it has become time for a very big overhaul then who and what I want to be, look & behave like, in come the balls and the basket.
I am not only thinking about what I want to achieve, but I am very detailed about aesthetics, logistics, practise and what I need to know within this too. Into the basket over the weeks, months and much longer, ‘big’ heavy ideas come down, quite distinct from general brain chatter ideas and fill it up, sometimes some get taken out and replaced with others, and other times a particular ball grows in complexity. Every day I take them out and play with them, thinking about the attributes and making physical actions towards the things I can do that add towards each. The basket slowly becomes filled with usually about 7 orbiting biggies which break down into more elaborate subcategories- ha, that took a while to figure the gauge. Yer, actually visualised in a whicker basket (my Nana and I used to collect flowers in it), each a different colour and moving, changing and dynamic like nebula. I can slide into each and see how they are progressing. They are things I am working on, things I want to do, make and achieve and all manner of other things, but there is also always one ball about my personal identity- which contains a quality I would like to better, learn, refine or remove and facets within this of my relationships with others, the environment and myself. The diversity of these keeps in balance my obsessive tendency by giving me the freedom to swap between things, especially if one has stalled... or perhaps just spread out that obsession lol
After each ‘project’ or transition, in a type of summary I file and shelve the baskets which pack down origami style from 3D to 2D and are organised into a big khaki metal filing cabinet ‘long term memory’… funnily from my dad’s office that I used to go to when I was a child... I wonder if the next generation thinks of an app logo?? I often go back in this space when I need to dig around for something and re-inflate baskets and withdraw balls. Sometimes searching for a tool or experience which can help in the present, sometimes looking for inspiration or a piece of the jigsaw for an idea. These are decades old- my memory is gargantuan and I can recall events, imagery, sensory incidents, ideas and thoughts back to being a very new infant- wooow I hear you say, yet this has very much been a double edged sword of a gift; it comes with recollection of every bad thing in just as vivid detail.
In my working headspace there are different baskets in circulation too, projects floating in foreground and background and they are not static, they elevate or diminish depending on requirements and validity. Most people try obsessing about an idea with total surrender or desire when they imagine their future partner; holding onto the concept and furnishing it over time. I have trained myself to do just this but over many diverse ideas & investments, and to sustain the development over months and often years. The cool thing about doing this is that these 'dreams', these ideas significantly impact what we do and who we are, because we collect and input activities and behaviours which match our vision. This is why I love encouraging people to find what they love, because by building towards something amazing, fun and great, it in turn helps the individual become just the same thing. Gawd, I could start getting really in depth, but I think it's best I keep to simple in this blog right or things are going to get sqiggly… and well, I prefer organically sharing things with people when the right time arrises within conversations that have relevance to the parties involved.
Dealing with festers, parts I don't like about myself and just general total questioning and tip-the-whole-fucking-thing-upside-down-and-shake-it-it-all-needs-to-be-rearranged mentality is what comes up in the already complex GTG area- yerp, when it rains it pours. Validating it is the mucho grande super key component, it becomes as important as the other balls. Over time, this allows me to come to a level of understanding about whatever it is that time and let it slide away. It’s like a pay-off. This process is only my process because of how I am built and what I can and cannot live with based on my morals and thought patterns, but I know others feel and go through a very similar pattern. My focus (interchange with obsessive nature- these qualities aren't to be scared of; they are mighty useful when channeled into the right zone and honestly, success comes snuggled up with addiction and obsession; it's a matter of dealing with it not being scared of it) knows that my brain needs a type of clarification or monkey chews in loop. I don't like loops, I like resolutions so I can grow into the next thing. Writing about this makes it sound if everything is judged and rigid but it’s not like that, less anal retentive and more playful organic perhaps. Planned and unplanned, flow & structure, control and fluidity; little curling mind waves. Sometimes resolution is quick, other times not so as it bubbles along at life flow.
Over the proceeding project and in the new idea phase, pointers and markers within me and my experiences direct me to what this next dark baby is. There is no question in my heart what it is by the time the balls are clear- there is actually no denying it within myself, and if I try to do so, things happen to very clearly remind me that I cannot wiggle away. In lieu of having bairns of my own I have behaved as if mother to my existence through my actions and my ideas- I think that's a rather wonderful way to exist and fascinatingly there are similarities in timeframe also.
Structured art making is the precursor to GTG. This is a happy and light stage; usually production of the resolution of ideas from the previous project experience, recently London and The Hague. In one light it is not the ‘real’ hard work. I would say that the sailing through the darker waters is actually the greatest art in itself, actually, lets go bigger than that, I really think the best art we make IS life, yes- we are all artists. 'Dark' is not necessarily sad either, it's a different type of energy or situation than that; it's like an emotionally dense and invested area- it can be happy but there is a lot going on.
In the past I have caused myself serious physical damage by not gauging what level of physical activity I can couple with my headspace at this particular time. I have realised I require habitual activities which are not high impact because I hurt myself if I do that- not in accidents but in quantity. I don't realise I’m pushing too hard because I’m trying balance out the level of stress and processing that’s going on in the noggin. Yoga, squash, cardio, swimming, and many others have been in that slot and although they work for the mental side, I have a tendency to take the amount into the extreme because brain is going gogogo- and so body gets pushed to gogogo also. I am a very tenacious animal. Incoming: collateral damage: I put my physical health secondary. Those activities I am passionate about can come back in at a different stage, but I have to be very aware within GTG what I choose and in what proportion. This time my new activities were teaching myself to ride my bicycle with no hands (that's around corners too) and standing tree pose for extended periods with my eyes closed. As I mature, I am better at being able to cut myself some cord and validate taking care of myself- but I think this is what is very challenging maybe more so for some of us than others. Yeah, yeah ‘take care of yourself’ we hear, um- yeah, I am trying to, but I don't have an off switch and I'm focused on bigger things.