An Excerpt from
Making Your Creative Mark by Eric Maisel
A logical — and vital —
relationship exists between passion and voice. It is very hard to be passionate
about what you’re doing if you haven’t found your voice as an artist. Imagine
being forced to sing an octave too high or an octave too low, straining to hit
notes that you can’t really hit and that aren’t natural to you. It would be
very hard to be passionate about singing in that situation.
It is exactly
like that with respect to whatever art you are creating. Whether you have been
forced by circumstance not to create in your own voice, or whether you’ve
avoided creating in your own voice for psychological reasons, the result will
be a tremendous lack of passion for what you’re doing. Creating in your
authentic voice produces and sustains passion.
With that in
mind, here are ten tips for finding or reclaiming your voice. They are framed
in terms of visual art, so if you are not a visual artist you will need to
translate them so that they make sense for your art discipline.
1.Detach from your current visual library.A very common problem, and almost always an unconscious one, is
the need an artist feels to make his work look like something he holds as “good
art” or “real art” — very often old master art. Because he possesses an
internal library of the successful artworks of well-known artists, without
quite realizing that he is doing it, he aims his art in the direction of those
successes. It is vital that an artist detach from that visual library —
extinguish it, as it were — so that his own imagery has a chance to appear.
not to rest on skills and talent.Maybe
you excel at producing dynamic-looking cats or turning a patch of yellow into a
convincing sun. That you have these talents doesn’t mean that you ought to be
producing lifelike cats or brilliant suns. Your strongest subject matter and
style choices depend on what you want to
say rather than on what you are good at producing. By all means, parlay
your skills and talents — but don’t rely on them so completely that you
effectively silence yourself.
risk-taking to feel risky. Very often the
personal work you want to do feels risky. Intellectually, you may find a way to
convince yourself that the risk is worth taking — but when you try to take the
risk, you balk because you suddenly feel anxiety welling up. Remember that a
risk is likely to feel risky. Get ready for that reality by practicing and owning one or two robust
anxiety-management strategies (more than a score of them are described in my
book Mastering Creative Anxiety).
projects for the sake of making progress.
When you make new work that you think aims you in the direction of your genuine
voice, try to complete that work rather than stopping midway because “it
doesn’t look right” or “it isn’t working out.” You will make more progress if
you push through those feelings, complete things, and only then appraise them. It is
natural for work that is a stretch and new to you to provoke all sorts of
uncomfortable feelings as you attempt it. Help yourself tolerate those feelings
by reminding yourself that finishing is a key to progress.
at least a little bit about positioning. You
may want to develop your voice independent
of art trends and say exactly what you want to say in exactly the way you want
to say it. On the other hand, it may serve you to take an interest in what’s
going on and make strategic decisions about how you want to position yourself
vis-à-vis the world of galleries, collectors, exhibitions, auctions, movements,
and so on. It isn’t so much that one way is right and the other is wrong but
rather that some marriage of the two, if you can pull it off, may serve you
best: a marriage, that is, of marketplace strategizing and of intensely
personal work that allows you to speak passionately in your own voice.
6. Try to
articulate what you’re attempting. Artists
are often of two minds as to whether they want to describe what they are
attempting. Paraphrasing a visual experience into a verbal artist’s statement
often feels unconvincing and beside the point. On the other hand, it can prove
quite useful to announce to yourself what you hope to accomplish with your new
work. By trying to put your next efforts into words, you may clarify your
intentions and as a consequence more strongly value your efforts. The better
you can describe what you are doing, the better you may understand your
artistic voice — and the more passionate you can be in talking about your work.
not to repeat yourself. Repeating
successful work has a way of reducing anxiety and can bring financial rewards
as well. But it may also prevent us from moving forward and discovering what we
hope to say. A balance to strike might be to do a certain amount of repeat
work, for the sake of calmness and for the sake of your bank account, and to
also add new work to your agenda. If you keep repeating yourself, it will prove
very hard to remain passionate about your work.
your earliest passions.Life has a way of
causing us to forget where our genuine passions reside. You may have spent
decades in a big city and completely forgotten how much the desert means to
you. You may have been so busy painting and parenting that your burning passion
for creating a series of cityscapes fell off the map somewhere along the line.
Finding your voice may involve something as simple and straightforward as
making a list of your loves and starring the ones that still energize you. This
is one of the simplest and smartest ways to discover what you are passionate
about and what you want to say.
about integrating your different styles. Maybe
you make two sorts of art, abstract relief paintings and realistic flat
paintings. This division may have occurred at some point when, perhaps without
consciously thinking the matter through, you decided that the one painting
style allowed you to do something that the other didn’t. It may pay you to
revisit this question today and see if the two styles can be integrated into
some third style that allows the best of both current styles to come together.
Whatever you discover from that investigation — whether it’s to move forward in
a new way or to recommit to your current methods — you will have helped
yourself better understand your artistic intentions. A lot of new passion can
arise from these efforts at integration.
10. Accept never-before-seen results.It can feel odd to speak in your own voice and then not
recognize the results. Because what you’ve created may be genuinely new — and
completely new to you — it may look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. That
can prove disconcerting! Don’t rush to judge it as too odd, a mess or a
mistake, or not what you’d intended. Give it some time to grow on you and speak
to you. Your voice may sound unfamiliar to you if you’ve never heard it before!
Remember: one of the keys to
maintaining passion and enthusiasm for your work is finding your own voice and
speaking in it!
Maisel is the author of Making Your Creative Mark and twenty other
creativity titles including Mastering Creative
for Life, and Coaching the Artist Within. America’s
foremost creativity coach, he is widely known as a creativity expert who
coaches individuals and trains creativity coaches through workshops and
keynotes nationally and internationally. He has blogs on the Huffington Post
and Psychology Today and writes a column for Professional Artist
Magazine. Visit him online at http://www.ericmaisel.com.