Protecting the Creative Flow

Posted November 27 2012
Originally Submitted on Sep 19, 2011 by Lynn Powers

At its best, creating art feels like riding a wave of energy. That's what makes art addictive for me. But if we're not careful, it's easy to pollute our creative juices, to morph art into something closer to drudgery. I've seen this happen to wonderfully talented people, causing them to quit painting and drawing permanently.

Sometimes the problem is not the process of creating art but the other responsibilities of an art career: framing, record keeping, art fairs, shows and commitments to organizations. Even commission work can be deadly. I've known folks who made a business of their art, quickly got under too much pressure, and lost all the joy that inspired them to start painting in the first place. These artists become tied to an expectation of making money, and when that doesn't happen, they think they've failed artistically. Or they turn their artistic processes into production lines, just cranking out work for the market, which can be just as bad for creative growth as struggles with money.
But there are folks who have studied, met challenges and frustrations, taught and produced art all their lives, and managed to maintain excitement and energy for what they do. They've managed to hang on to what's important, what feeds them creatively, and they continue to grow.

Each of us must discover personal processes and attitudes that nurture our artistic growth. Some artists can't share work in progress because a casual, critical comment could undermine their confidence. Entering art shows, seeking professional recognition, and even achieving a long-sought-after goal can all stop artists in their tracks. To protect our creative processes, we need to recognize what works and what doesn't work to keep ourselves continually practicing art. Only honest self-reflection will protect that continued practice, which in the big picture is the only thing we absolutely must have to get better.
What precautions do you take to protect your creative flow?