I've pursued so many different paths since college (and even during college, see: "new major every semester"), and I've loved all of them, but I wonder if I've diversified my interests to a point where my work is incoherent. Doubt. Self-consciousness. Jealousy of my friends who've by all appearances stayed their course begins to leer at me with its ugly green eyes. What if I know too much? What if I never pick a 'thing'?Read More
We are shaped and fashioned by what we love. - Goethe
I stayed in this weekend - to "create something" though I didn't know what it would be - I just knew that I'd missed the process of making stuff over the last few months' craziness and I was ready to dig back in. I thought about ransacking my mom's studio and throwing paint at this huge canvas I'd found, but instead I started dicking around on the internet per usual. Fortunately, my girl Danielle LaPorte had posted about a "Little Book for Big Thinkers" - I searched the title on Amazon... and accidentally purchased Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon using one-click ordering instead.
Well, I bought the other book too, but I read Austin's (he favorited my tweet, so we're on a first name basis now) at light speed and these are the things I realized about my creative process - and I hope you find them somewhat relevant to yours. Regardless, if you create anything at all, you should definitely read the book. And so:
1) Write what you love. Or paint or draw or photograph. I've always heard 'write what you know', but that seemed boring and I finally figured out why. What I love is writing. I don't really care what I have to write about because it's the craft that turns me on and the art of arranging words that inspires me. I loved assigned essays and hated my creative writing classes because the form is my art. I just want to write about writing, So, now I've got some focus.
2) Guard the things you love. I am a collector. I have shelves and shelves of books I haven't read. I have all my favorite reads in a drawer by my bed with the best passages marked. I wear multiple strands of mala beads under my hoodies to remind myself that the mindful life is always close. I religiously make phone dates with my best friends every week. I have more Frye boots than I could possibly need, but they are my favorite luxury. I love moleskine notebooks and planners and I never throw them away. I make playlists every tuesday. I have uniball vision fine point pens in every color, all of the cameras I've ever owned, and just few pieces of jewelry that I wear every day. I think it's important to hold the things that mean the most to you close, to provide comfort and continuity and inspiration, and Austin agrees. "All artists are collectors," he says. Ahhhh validation.
3) Copy what you love. I love Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins and Ernest Hemingway. I love Robbins' imagination and the touching sincerity of Vonnegut's satire and Hemingway's utter mastery of word economy. I strive to be at once irreverent and kind and to the point. I want to bring my favorite parts of my heroes into my work, while making it my own. But I don't have to know what that looks like in order to start doing it. So I'm doing it.
It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. - Conan O'Brien
4) Work from the heart. Work that only comes from the head is garbage. The things that you do when you procrastinate, that's probably your heart work. I tinker with my blog, I write about yoga and introspection and better ways of doing things, but really I write just because I love writing. If money were no object I'd quit my job and write. I don't even really care what I write about, I just want to write. Forever.
5) Love your work enough to make time for it. Not your 9-5, but the work that you love - love it enough to carve out space to make it happen. Make it happen every day. Take care of yourself and get some damn sleep so that you can create. Keep your day job to pay the bills so that you can create. Stay out of debt so that you can invest in your work and the things that inspire it. Stay the course. Keep a routine. Be boring so that you can be creative. Respect your art and tend to it so that it can grow and you can grow with it.
I didn't actually make stuff like I'd planned, but I laid out the framework for my creative process and strategy around my writing that I'm super excited about and I hope that whatever it is that you do, you make the time and love the work.