Sometimes creativity comes in exciting spurts, with long in-betweens of staring at a blank canvas or sleeping on our computer keyboard. Moments of inspiration are exhilarating, but the creative process can be wrought with anxiety and therefore takes bravery and endurance. Everyone has the capacity to think creatively. If we are a sum of our life experiences that have shaped us from birth, our perspective is unique. If this is the case, then you have something to share that no one else can offer. Art can be a way to share these viewpoints. Art can also help us see life through a variety of different lenses and wrestle with multiple truths that are sometimes conflicting.
If you are currently an undergraduate artist, actress, designer, director, dancer, choreographer, writer, musician, graphic designer, or photographer you are probably working on mastering your craft as well as building your portfolio. As I have taken classes in digital, applied, and performing arts, I’ve been collecting mantras that have changed how I viewed the creative process. These gems of advice from other artists sum up my four years as an SFA student as well as include some recent advice given by speaker Jonah Lehrer at the Sieur Du Luht Creativity Conference.
Work begets work / Learn by doing. Do. Experiment. Play. Be messy. Break the rules. As you create, ideas will come more easily. Remember that moments of creative lucidity or “aha” moments can be few and far between. The work is difficult and scary, but when you start, it might take you in a direction you did not expect.
Don’t cheat yourself out of realizing your full potential. Many of us have been trained to cut corners in school. We do only what is absolutely necessary to get by, but by not taking time to do the best work you can do, you are only letting yourself down. There is no way to unlock your potential if you do not push yourself. At the end of the day, you are going to want a portfolio of work you are proud of. And it will matter much more than a good grade.
Take advantage of opportunities to collaborate. Collaboration can stimulate truly fantastic work. Teaming up with others can reveal blind spots that you were unaware of in your own work. Problems that you were having difficulty solving on your own, can suddenly work themselves out of a tangle. As new voices with a unified sense of purpose and aesthetic are added to the mix, the work can become richer- like overtones in a piece of choral music.
Expose yourself to new experiences & learn everything that interests you. You put out what you take in. The more you take in, the more you have to draw from. Learn from your predecessors and masters of your craft. You have more artistic freedom than many of the greats, more freedom than Michelangelo and Raphael. You also have more artistic freedom in this country than many other places in the world. And in a university setting, you are protected from certain pressures and criticism that exists in the “real world”. These are the perfect conditions to see how far you can fly, so don’t hold back now.
And at the end of the day, get back up. Sometimes you have an image in your mind, but when it comes to implementation, nothing you do can quite reach your ideals. You take a risk and make your art and some people criticize what feels like an extension of yourself. You compete for a grant, or try to get published, or pitch a show to a producer, or submit a film to a festival and you get rejected. Van Gogh was rejected countless times and never sold a painting in his life. So you take the fall, you feel vulnerable and injured. And you get back up, because failing isn’t actually failing in the arts. It’s an integral part of the creative process.