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Thoughts about Doubts and the Creative Process

Lately I have been thinking a lot about doubts and how I create when I have doubts.
Having doubts is part of the process of creating. It is also part of being human.

I believe people think that I always know what to do when I am creating a piece.  I don’t.

I used to say creating is about deep listening and follow through. This is still true, but there is more. Creating a work of art is like figuring out a puzzle. It is coming up with the right pieces and fitting them together in the right way so that it fits together to make a whole story. Sometimes I don’t have a clue as to what to do. The trick is to not be intimidated by not knowing.

Once I have created my monoprints and printed them on paper, there is still work to be done. I would say that most of my monoprints require more work, like drawing, painting, or collage. Sometimes they become encaustic wax pieces or they become covers for my handmade books, or they end up as parts of my Creative Clippings bags. I usually pull at least 3 monoprints from the same plate. Each one is similar yet different. Sometimes these monoprints tell different parts of the same story and sometimes they veer off into a new story altogether. I do not control or steer the art.

At first when I choose a monoprint to draw or paint on, I try to figure out how best to bring out the story or image. The big question is what to do? What is this piece about? I have no idea. So I sit with the unfinished piece waiting for inspiration or a clue. I can get very antsy and uncomfortable, and I wish I were anyplace but here with this piece of unfinished art. Sometimes this is excruciating. There is a lot of sighing on my part and I usually reach for chocolate, which helps by the way. It is a process I have gone through probably thousands of times. 

But I stick with it and here is why. I override my doubts and fears of screwing it up and I begin. It doesn’t matter where on the piece I begin. It could be on the far edge of the print that isn’t critical to the piece. The important thing is to begin. Pablo Picasso said inspiration exists, but it has to find us working. He is correct. You can’t just sit and wait for inspiration. You have to take some kind of action even if it is just a tiny mark or step.

So, I start drawing and shading, or painting. I usually know right away if what I have done is not right and I back up and erase, or re-paint with a different color. Then there is a tipping point. I have taken enough right steps or found enough of the correct puzzle pieces that the image begins to take shape and I suddenly know exactly what to do. It is a glorious feeling to get past the doubt phase.

This is the cool part, because what happens is that my hands begin doing things before my mind has decided what to do. Athletes describe being in “the zone”, this may be similar because the feeling is luminous and timeless and worth every minute or hour of the uncomfortable doubt phase.