Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Creative Energy

"Some days I can take on a storm. Other days, I am a worm crawling towards the finish line."

The act of creating takes up a lot of energy. This energy is usually different for every artist and it is also different at every stage of the creative process. Too often that not, artists don't understand their own energy flow and it creates a kind of logjam that prevents them from being effective or doing anything at all.

Usually when we start a project, we're swept away with the fervor and excitement of something new, then towards the middle we run out of steam, then we either crawl towards the end, jog steadily, or sprint by exhausting all our muscles and crash afterwards.

Image your creative energy is like water in a kettle, sometimes it is low, cold inside the steel pot, and still. Other times, it is boiling, hot, full of steam and you can hardly contain yourself. But if you are too still, your water will mold. If you are too much full of steam, you'll evaporate and run out of water. So if you are in either extremes, you are not being effective with your energy.

In order to create most effectively, you need to figure out which energy patterns you have. What works for you and what doesn't work and how you can turn on your internal stove to just the right temperature at a given moment.

For someone who has a lot of ideas, but can't settle on one to start with, their energy path is a like hurricane, wind blowing every which way, but there is no predictable direction. For someone with tunnel vision for  mini tasks and details but not the overall picture, their energy is like a tornado, unaware of the peripheral. For someone who needs a rushed deadline, an audience to perform in front, and a build up of excitement in order to create, their energy is like a tsunami, overwhelming themselves and others.

It is also possible to create with the energy of a steady low murmuring boat ride across a still water while blaring an anthem over the speakers. The same as it is also possible to create with the energy of paddling upstream against choppy waves while humming a lullaby. Over time, you'll discover the right energy patterns for yourself and your creative process.

With Seal, sometimes an idea comes with a loud bang, but most often than not they come as a quiet whisper, "hey, it may be fun to try this." It is hesitant, timid, but curious. Then as she mulls over the project over the span of several days and weeks, she starts to pick up speed. She finds references, inspirations, jots down notes, and the project catches wind. But towards the middle of her creative journey, the boat slows down. She is full of doubts, "is this the right way to go?" "where was I going with this?" But instead of wasting energy mulling in circle she uses up and contains her energy through meditation in other activities. She hits up yoga, do other hobbies, and comes back, with affirmative answers. "Yes, keep going." or "No, wrong way. Time to shelf that idea until it matures for another time. Back to square one." But knowing that she has similar energy patterns, Seal is able to remedy the sluggish slow areas by doing other activities and to practice containment during the rapids.

For someone like Seal, whose energy tends to be low. She needed some excitement.
Last week, she went to the trampoline warehouse called House of Airs. Even though she had creative deadlines looming,  by jumping up and down, she was getting "pumped" to tackle the next project. She even thought she could soar if she flapped her wings a bit.

For someone like Monkey, who has a lot of energy to bounce off the walls naturally. He needed some containment. In order to contain the energy, he needed to figure out which projects to prioritize, how much time he could allot to each, allocate specific energies to get each task done. He also uses up the extra energy on computer games, screen printing, and producing multiple works at one time, so he's not just focus on one project intensely then run out of steam later. He also practices containment by genuinely enjoying each moment, whether that is work, driving, painting, screenprinting, walking to the gallery, or seeing friends. In each activity, he focuses on the enjoyment of every breath, so no energy is wasted.

So what is your energy level like? Do you have a pattern? What activities or "non-activities" can you do to balance and or call upon during specific areas in your creative process?