Is it ever possible to 'complete' an art-work, and should we even want to?The other night I was having a very interesting chat with an artist over on Instagram about creative process and trust (which is one of the core creative mindfulness attitudes) and she brought up the idea of 'completion'. And this idea of completion struck me as very interesting and one that I needed to reflect on and unpack a little. There was something about the idea of working towards completion in the creative process that bugged me a little and I wondered why that was. So I sat down and had a little think, and this is what I thought...
"Neither from nor towards, at the still point, there the dance is." T.S. Eliot And there the art is... Neither grasping after it - it's gotta happen, gimme gimme inspiration. Chasing chasing. Nor expecting inspiration to come strike miraculously out of an empty sky. Instead we hold steady, hold still. We show up.
The start of new projects can often look and feel a little clunky. I'm experimenting wildly and widely at the moment. So many ideas, so many possible pathways for the red threads and the breath. My head is teeming with them! At the moment a lot of my studio practice is simply about exploring those initial ideas, travelling just far enough along the path to see if:
1) the idea, the concept itself will hold my interest
At the moment I'm trying to practice the art of no expectations. What's that, I hear you ask? Let me explain. ... You see recently I started a new creative project - the next Stop Look Breathe Create book, in fact. (Woop! I'm very excited.) And I am, as we always are at the beginning of new projects, full of enthusiasm and expectations. This book's been brewing in my head for a long time and inevitably, along with all the sensible and necessary planning (how many chapters, what kind of structure, what practices) there's been a certain amount of rose-tinted daydreaming too. Which is all pretty normal for us human beings, and we mostly recognise these kinds of expectations for what they are, fantasy, but still it's good to be mindful of them.
What are the most important attitudes we need to bring to creative mindfulness practice?High time I finally wrote down these core attitudes which inform all the creative mindfulness practices I teach - including Stop Look Breathe Create. These have always been implicit in my books, but for some reason I've not ever stated them explicitly - or at least not all together in this way. So here they are - and I've created a simple poster that you can download and put up in your creative space to remind you too. (It's at the bottom of this post - just right click and save.)
Here's a little story for you... The other night I was working on my BIG red tangle drawing, for what I thought was the last time. After months of work I wasalmost finished, and I'd had very clear ideas in my head for some time about the last things I needed to do to finish. I could see it oh-so-clearly. So, confidently and boldy I DID it.
I've been listening to a lot of really amazing music recently - including pieces by the composer Somei Satoh. It's been there in the background as I've been creating many of my red thread drawings. So this month I thought I'd suggest a creative mindfulness with music meditation for you to try. Start by listening to my guided meditation - Drawing with the Breath, which is the first meditation on the resources page of my website here. Follow the instructions for becoming mindful of body and breath.
Now let’s do a bit of myth-busting. Let’s imagine for a minute that creative energy – or inspiration, is like physical energy – or wellbeing. Our physical energy fluctuates all the time, some days our step is full of bounce and we’re active from morning to night. At other times we drag ourselves through the day, collapsing into bed utterly exhausted at the end of it. Sometimes we can’t get up in the morning at all, we take a duvet day, or are simply unwell or even very ill. Our fluctuating physical energy is something we’ve learned to accept. It can be frustrating or even depressing when our energy levels are low, or low on a regular basis, but we don’t expect them to be consistently high.
hen we’re mindfully drawing we keep a light mindful awareness on our experience of drawing, checking-in, which means we notice when the comparing thoughts, the I’m-not-as-good-as thoughts, the look-what-they’re-doing-it’s-better-than-mine thoughts appear. And because we’re drawing mindfully we notice our reaction to these thoughts, the emotions that arise, and the capitulation, the sudden acceptance of these comparing thoughts as a truth. And because we’re drawing mindfully we notice that in the space after the comparing thought there is the opportunity for choice, the choice to breathe, feel the pencil or piece of charcoal in our hand, to connect with our heart and not compare.
So how good are you at letting-go? In my last blog I wrote about my own experience with this, and explored in particular the idea that trying to solve the problem of holding-on with our minds, by willing ourselves to let go mentally or physically – come on you must, do it, relax! – was actually counterproductive. After all, it’s our minds that do all the holding on; controlling, pushing away certain experiences and chasing after others, sorting and sifting life, judging and fearing, trying to make things run the way we want them to.
By far the biggest challenge for me in life and in creativity, has been that of learning to let go – to let go with my mind, to let go with my body, and simply be. I think it’s a challenge that we all share. We are programmed for control – and when I say this I am talking about self-control, the attempt to exert an influence over our own thoughts, emotions and experiences whether in the mind or the body. And whilst some of this control is necessary, much of it isn’t. What’s more, it’s often not even particularly effective.