Friday, March 16, 2007

Creative Process

I haven’t been able to do any artwork in the past couple of weeks because of a project for work. It is a creative project – designing an online course – and I’ve discovered that the process is very similar. I’ve struggled for weeks with certain elements in the design. I’ve spent days working it a certain way, only to change it the next time I worked on it.

Then yesterday morning when I looked at it with fresh eyes (early morning) – I saw what needed to happen. It was like the fog lifted and there before me was the “answer.”

From what we know about the creative process, there are four basic steps:
The first step is preparation, when one actively seeks problems to be solved and information about these problems. One gathers information from all available sources, to the point of saturation.
The second step is incubation, when one puts the problem to rest and turns to other activities. Any technique of relaxation of the conscious cognition (left brain) which would allow subliminal processes (right brain) to operate, such as dreams, daydreams, fantasy, meditation, and play, is helpful for this stage.
The third step is illumination, which typically brings the “aha!” when one receives an answer unexpectedly and without effort.
The fourth step is verification, when one tests and verifies the ideas for viability through various implementation stages. Within this step are two additional steps: refinement, a process of modification and refinement to get ideas into a salable form; and selling, the process of getting someone else to buy the finished product.
There is also the element of encounter, in which the creator becomes absorbed in the object at hand. The intensity of the encounter, also referred to as absorption, leads to a heightened consciousness that is exhibited in neurological changes such as a quickened heartbeat, higher blood pressure, increased intensity and constriction of vision, and lessening of appetite as we become oblivious to the surroundings. Rollo May contended that while we cannot “will” creativity, we can will to give ourselves over to the encounter with intensity and dedication and commitment.

With this development project, I have experienced these steps. The element of encounter has had the most impact. I find, just as with making art, that when I allow myself immersion time, a full day without interruptions (which usually means I must work at home), there is a better chance for “illumination.” This project has been incubating for months; I’ve struggled for months. Putting it aside was probably a good thing. Now the deadline is forcing the immersion, which is allowing clarity to unfold. So deadlines play an important role in the creative process as well.

Just as with my writing, the importance of a full block of uninterrupted time is so critical to my creative process. I made a list of things I could do when I had 10 minutes of art time. And that’s fine … I like the idea of keeping a project going if in no other way than adding a bead. Many say we should do something artful each day. But I find that with too many of these short entries into the work, I begin to loose sight of the big picture. It becomes fragmented. It’s only with the larger blocks that I can really “reconnect” with a piece.

The design wall is also a critical element. Having unfinished pieces up on my wall keeps me engaged if only to look at it in passing and note something missing or that needs to be moved or eliminated. Even when I don’t get to a piece for a long period of time, it’s in my head … the incubation stage.

I’ve had two Fridays (my usual art day) now that I’ve not been engaged in art making and I’m beginning to feel resentful. Today I’ll have a short period of time to at least photograph two pieces that I completed and try and get them up on the blog. But once again work interferes.

I dream of retirement – three more years and then freedom to create …


1 comment:

Nellie Bass Durand said...

Ahhhh, so that's how it all works! Why it's easy to forget to eat when I'm engrossed. I do know that it's a good thing to get the majority of a piece done during the first burst of enthusiasm. At some point each piece becomes just work to get it finished.

Can't wait to see the pieces you've had a chance to work on.