The Birth of Creative Work
April 6, 2019
April 6, 2019
A few weeks ago I started taking a weekly art class. It's been great for me to connect to my creativity in a structured way. I have learned so much about my creative process and I've only been in the class for 3 weeks! I can not wait to see what else I learn over the next couple of months.
This week in class the focus was portraits. The instructor had us put a big blob of red paint in the middle of our paper, which was used to create the shape of the model's head. She told us to use black and white paint to convey where light and shadow were hitting the model. We had 15 minutes to complete the painting. The idea of this exercise was to work quickly and not get bogged down by thinking about each brushstroke.
We did three of these 15-minute paintings over the course of the class. Each time, mid-way through, I was convinced I was doing a terrible job and I should start over. (There's that sneaky inner critic again!) However, instead of crumpling up my paper, I breathed through the discomfort and finished each painting. And guess what ?! A face emerged on the canvas. I started each painting with a big blob of paint in the middle of the paper and over the course of 15 minutes somehow I created a portrait. In a way, it was magical.
It got me thinking. When I'm in the middle of a rehearsal process I often go through a similar experience. I start off the project excited about the possibilities and happy about the chance to create something new, but in the middle of the process, I sometimes feel lost. Everything feels muddy and uncertain. It's a very uncomfortable time, often filled with self-doubt. It can feel as if you are eight months pregnant with your creative work, awkwardly lumbering about, anxiously waiting to give birth.
What I've come to realize is that the middle of the creative process is very much a liminal zone. Liminal is defined by Merriam-Webster as "of, relating to, or being in an intermediate state, phase, or condition." Liminal zones are transitional times in the human experience when we are either here nor there. Examples of common liminal zones are: graduating, moving, starting a new job, getting married, being pregnant. These are often challenging times in our lives, filled with uncertainty and discomfort.
My thought for you today is to realize that the middle part of any creative process is a liminal zone. It's okay that in the mid of creation we are uncomfortable – you could even say that it is natural or inevitable. You will get through it. Trust that you will not stay there forever. That "in-between place" is simply a part of the creative process. It is a necessary part of your art being "born." And while that is sometimes an uncomfortable, and even painful process, it is also necessary. We can not create in order to avoid the discomfort. The consequences of condemning ourselves artistic expression are simply too high.