One of the best things about living in Canada is taking a road trip. And I LOVE road trips! The miles fly by, the hours turn into more hours and the landscape changes and changes and changes. One thing you always have an abundance of on the great Canadian road trip is time. Time to think, time to listen to music and time to talk with your traveling companions. My recently completed public art project in Lethbridge, Alberta provided several opportunities for road trips. My traveling companion was my co-artist in the project, Nathan Siemens. We spent several hours on different trips discussing the life of an artist. One of the biggest challenges that we have both faced is a strange form of inertia that most creative people seem to experience at least once in a while. We want to create – we have ideas and desire – our entire existence is about creating. But we don’t create. And we don’t understand why we don’t create. I like to call it the, “I want to create, but for some reason I’m not creating, artist death spiral.”
Nathan found himself relating well to this topic. I think a lot of artists relate well to this topic. One of my favourite artists, Robert Genn published a book called The Letters, which focused on the process of creating art. In one of those letters, he talked about sometimes having to give the artist in him a “ good kick in the butt”. He also discussed some strategies for accomplishing that kick in the butt.
So during our road trips, Nathan and I discussed possible catalysts for overcoming this artistic inertia. One suggestion I made was to create accountability. You see, artists don’t have the big boss standing over them saying, “if you don’t produce, you’re fired.” We tend to be self-employed and we like it that way – no one telling us what to do and very few deadlines. There is no ominous, approaching date that creates a sense of crisis and helps us to get out of the rut. Maybe we have to manufacture a situation where people are expecting something from us.
I suggested to Nathan that he do an art show. He loved the idea and jumped all over it. In short order he had found a space for the show, given it a name and invited everyone he knew. Instant Accountability! The inertia was overcome. He was off and running.
It was such a pleasure to watch him resume his creative process. Once Nathan had acquired the catalyst of a deadline he began creating. And he was loving it! He pumped out more art than he had in years. Everyone enjoyed the exhibit and the show was a great success.
So maybe we need to look at our creative process like a road trip. Phone some friends, tell them we’re coming, then, get in the car and drive. That’s when the fun begins.
I’ve decided to take my own advice. On December 3rd I will be having my own art show and I hope you’ll all come out and see the results of my self-imposed accountability.