This post may look familiar to some of you. It appeared a few years ago on another website of mine which has since been taken down. I feel, however, that this post is still relevant, so I’m sharing it here with apologies to those of you for whom it isn’t new.
One thing we creative types learn early on is that we just can’t keep everything we create. Physical objects take up space, and most of us don’t have so much space we can store everything indefinitely.
This is a good thing. Creative talents aren’t just for the artist: they’re for everyone. If we’ve been given a gift, chances are the gods intend us to share that gift with the world. And in the sharing, we receive input that helps us learn and enriches future projects. Not only that, but seeing people interact with finished works gives us a new understanding of the meaning of that work. Seeing our work through the eyes of others is an important phase in the creative process.
Sometimes, though, it’s hard to part with a project–even when it was clear from the very beginning that the object wasn’t mine. While I was making this nature spirit for a dear friend, the whole time I was thinking, “Why can’t I keep this one?”
But of course when I put it in my friend’s hands, I was glad I’d followed my instincts. It was so clearly hers, it would have been a crime to keep it for myself. I do best when I work by instinct, and when I work with a clear sense that my work is not all about me.
I know there are people who create art primarily for themselves. Art is therapy, or pleasure. But it’s never been that way for me. The creative process for me has always been a way of bringing something into the world that needs to be here; most of the time I create because of a tug, a pull, that says “Take this and make something with it. Someone is waiting for it.” When I follow that pull, the creation always finds the right home.
Of course, often working by instinct feels like fumbling in the dark. Sometimes I wish I could be one of those people who comes up with an idea, makes a plan, follows the steps, finishes the project or product, and sells it. I have heard, mostly from self-help articles, that those people exist. I don’t know any of them, but it sounds nice. Uncomplicated. Reliable. Whenever I decide I’m going to be linear, think things through, make plans . . . I end up creating very lovely things that live in my closet until I give them away because I need more space. My brain is great, but apparently it has nothing to do with my art. I need to remind myself of this frequently if I want to avoid wasting a lot of time and energy.