(Intro(duck)tion, a collaboration with Arlen Dean)
Recently I had an inspiring conversation with an artist friend of mine on how to make a significant breakthrough in creative production and move into more accomplishing, higher quality phase of work.
The conversation made an impact on me so I decided to write a post about it. This post, is of course, based purely on subjective opinions, personal experiences and observations and if you disagree or want to contribute to the topic in any way please comment below or drop me a line on email@example.com
So, recently a friend and I were discussing how amazing and great first years of pursuing some sort of creative, art related work are. They are a period of discovery, learning and developing your own style. They are also a period of connecting with like minded people, fellow artists, attracting an audience and getting attention. During that time everything seems new, fresh and interesting, you can see progress in almost every piece you make and you’re highly motivated to continue working. In spite of occasional frustrations and insecurities, first years of pursuing art are a period of growth and expansion.
And that phase of expansion seems to last on average for 3 years. It seems that after circa 3 years of continuous work many artists reach a plateau that is not easy to break through. It gets harder and harder to notice significant progress in one’s work which can cause frustration, lack of inspiration and motivation and even a feeling of having a major creative blockage. Some artists get so discouraged and frustrated, they don’t see a way out of this and instead of persistently pushing through this challenging creative blockage they move on to another creative pursuit, a different form of art or decide to quit altogether.
Why is that so? Well, after approximately 3 years of following one path, working within one style (within a certain self-imposed set of rules, if you will) you need to make a conscientious effort to move into next phase of work. An effort that involves planning, scheming, asking yourself serious questions and making serious decisions.
This more rational, mental approach is polar opposite to creative, intuitive process and doesn’t come naturally to artists. Sometimes it just seems easier to move on to something completely new, different and start all over again than to go through a phase of rationally analyzing and dissecting your own work.
But, from my experience, going through this “rational” phase is necessary for making a significant breakthrough in creative work. I believe that adopting a rational (and not only intuitive) approach to creative work is a process of maturing and “growing up” as an artist. Becoming aware of your shortcomings and strong points is important. Asking yourself what does your work contribute to this world and what kind of value does it represent to others is also important as is realizing that you are the only one responsible for your success. Setting goals and making plans is counter intuitive but often necessary if you want to grow as an artist.
So, what are some concrete things you can do when you believe you’ve reached a certain plateau and feel like you need to make a breakthrough :
Figure out how to work smarter and not (just) harder, find out what your strongest points and qualities are and work with them.
Take your time to find out what you really want to achieve, set goals and make a detailed plan how to achieve them step by step.
Don’t be hard on yourself, don’t criticize yourself too much if things don’t seem to go the way you hoped, allow your self to grow at your own perfect pace.
And don’t forget, everyday you stick with your pursuit of art you will be putting yourself in a smaller and more relevant group of competition so any effort you invest in your work is worthwhile.