Monday, November 15, 2010

Revisions: It'll All Part of the Process! or You Don't Have to Do it Perfectly the First Time!

You need to do revisions, and that's that.

Most people don't like to hear this. We would rather imagine that creativity is done 1) quickly 2) effortlessly 3) painlessly 4) perfectly, without any second draft, revisions, stagnation, re-dos, or breaks.

Perhaps, we even have an image of the creative genius artist, living somewhere in a remote cabin, completely and utterly devoted to their art: who wakes up at 5am and pines away at the canvas for 10 hours, without food or break . . . the novel churns itself out. Some painter somewhere, perhaps your peers or rivals, are happily, elegantly, making the next best hit, while you are wrestling with the question: should I create today?

But the truth is, we all need revisions. There is no perfection! Sure, maybe, perhaps there is one out of the billion who has the genius to create at whim and have a perfect masterpiece painting, novel, or comic book inked on the first draft, without any decisions to include, exclude -- to delete, or add another sentence or brush stroke here . . . (although I very much doubt such artists exists.) But for most of us, the rest of us, we have to deal with sentences or brush strokes that we, yes, sometimes hate. You artwork can sometimes be painful, awkward, plodding ugly ducklings. But does that mean we should stop and put our brushes away? Call it a day or a year even, and take up an endeavor that comes more easily to us? Of course not.

"Yes, it is early; yes, this is a draft; yes, the beauty will appear in the revising" (Eric Maisel).

Revisions are part of the process. As a creative artist, you need to honor the process, the positive triumphs along with their ugly duckling stages. A great novel is created through countless of revisions. A great painting style is achieved through countless experimentation and thousands of sketches that very often, the public will never see. A great artist is built upon the continual committed encounters between yourself and the canvas every day, especially on the days that you want to run away most from your art.

This worrying, this fussing, and frustration - a change here, move this sentence here, or that color there - it's all part of the process.

And the truth is, even the "masters" we admire did revisions. Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Michelangelo, Raphael, even our contemporaries. Brahms, spent 14 years completing his Symphony no.1., in its entirety, it is a 45 minute piece,but when you listen to the music, not a second is wasted - the revisions were well- spent. In 2007, they found Michelangelo's sketches for the dome of St Peter's Basilica. Some of his tattered sketches of the Sistine Chapel also exist. Not surprisingly, some were carefully drawn, some re-drawn, there were some stray marks here and there. And the proportion on some of the figures - surprise! not perfect. He was notorious for burning his sketches. So of course, for a long time, we did not know that it was part of his process. Don't get me wrong, he was a very talented man and his artwork is absolutely masterful. But it is because he spent the process of revisions that the sketches became masterful.

Art is a process of becoming.

Will you honor the steps of creating? Will you face your art in all of its stages?

No comments: