There is no singular “Correct” way to create great art or be a professional artist. Regardless of your artistic discipline, what works for one artist, may not necessarily work for the other and therefore the ideas and “advice” that I will be sharing in this column, will be subjective, based on my (6+ years of ) professional experience and prefaced with many “I” statements. HAVING SAID THAT, “I” do believe that these ideas and practices can be applied and moulded to many artistic disciplines in ways that will achieve results and success. So let’s get into it!
Habitual Creative Time vs Genuine Inspiration
I think as we begin this conversation, it is important to note that the very nature of being a “Professional” artist is somewhat antithetical to the idea of creating amazing art. How can you continuously create the best art of your life with a deadline and a budget and oftentimes confounding stipulations put on you by someone who may not necessarily understand your artwork or artistic practice? For me, this is a question I often ask myself. The conclusion I’ve come to is this; Find the balance between creating structured time in your day for intentional and consistent creative time while also nurturing and then capitalising on moments of genuine inspiration. The reality of the situation I find myself in, is that if I just sit around and do nothing until I feel a moment of genuine inspiration, I may create beautiful and masterful art over time, but I will never be able to earn a living, let alone achieve financial and career success for myself. While I often find myself raging against this harsh reality, I have also been fortunate enough to see the benefits of having structured work and creative time in my career. In addition to that, I also truly believe that my best work comes from moments of pure inspiration where I am able to set everything else aside, and become completely enveloped in the process of doing what I was put on this earth to do; my art. I would never want to lose that. So the full picture for me is to schedule enough time in my day to complete the “must-do” art (Social media engagements, Grant proposals, emails, workshops, speaking or writing engagements, commissions etc) , while still providing room for my mind to wonder and stumble into moments of genuine inspiration and creativity (creating new poetry and music).
Is It the Habit of Creation or Creating Good Habits?
There was never a specific point in time where I thought to myself, “Boom! Now I got it all figured out”. In fact I think many professional artists will tell you that there is NEVER a point where you have it all figured out because the balance of what is required from you is always changing from month to month and year to year. Some weeks I have all the work in the world lined up and I have to set aside much more structured time for myself because “Money affi mek!” In those moments I will naturally be more focused on worldly ideas of money, deadlines and networks and be less open to a moment where the universe will speak to you in such a way that you experience a brilliant idea for an artwork or have the strong desire to create something. Trust me, that is okay! I create a schedule for all my “Must dos” and capitalise on that because I am trying to understand that I am earning money and resources, in order to have more time and money to finance my truly artistic endeavours. Some other weeks, I may find myself with more time and space to create and it is equally important to seize those moments to the fullest because I understand that these moments are fleeting and I was the 1-in-7,000,000,000 that the Universe chose to put that artwork out to the world. In these times, I will naturally find it more difficult to cross off the “must dos” and they may oftentimes feel like even more of a chore than they already can sometimes feel like for me. Trust me, that is okay!
Ideally, in my week, I will be able to balance between the two ideas and that is actually quite a large metric by which I define “Success” for myself as a professional artist. My modus operandi is this: I want to be in the habit of being able to seamlessly switch between completing my “must do” tasks and seizing on random moments of inspiration in my day to day. If I have a good idea or a beautiful line pops into my head, I WRITE IT DOWN. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have gone back into my Google doc of ideas and found UNCUT DIAMONDS in the form of an idea that I can turn into a bar, a turn of phrase, a whole poem or even an entire project. None of those would have been available if I didn’t write it down at the time, knowing that I would return to it after my “must dos” were completed. You don’t get to decide when a moment of inspiration or creation will hit you, but you can do everything in your power to take full advantage when it does and also cultivate healthy conditions for it to occur.
IN THE END
In the end, experience and discipline will be your best teachers. You cannot create great art or be a professional artist without getting into the habit of being comfortable working on deadlines, within budgets and inside stipulations of your contracted employer. However, this does not mean that you forgo moments of genuine inspiration because you need that to feel complete and to create truly stunning pieces of art. Balancing both is the ever changing mission, and it is my privilege and my responsibility to execute that mission, to the best of my ability, on a day to day basis. This column has only scratched the surface of the iceberg in terms of this topic but I would be happy to go even more in depth on examples and personal anecdotes to give more context in the future. Thank you for reading and all the best in your mission.