Wrestling with ideas


"Here is a drawing of one of the New York Repertory Orchestra cellists. The bamboo pen I used is by far the worst I've ever tried! It barely takes any ink and does not improve when sharpened, but I admit, it is kind of fun to take on the challenge and just kind of wrestle drawings out of it anyway."

Kati Nawroki, in One Drawing a Day

A few days into the One Drawing a Day challenge, I came across this drawing and Kati's comment on it. I realised that's exactly how I feel about art sometimes, whether it's creating with words or with watercolours - that I have to wrestle my creation onto the page.

So it was with these words in mind that I sat down early this morning to start editing my novel that I'm submitting for a writing competition. (I've long missed the early bird deadline, but I still have until December to panel-beat it into shape.)

I'm not sure if I could honestly say I like the challenge of creating something. There are days when the words just won't flow and every sentence that I write just sounds daft. I don't like those days, or the writing that it produces.

Same with painting. Just yesterday I produced a simple sunset picture where the orange was by far too light and the yellow faded away into nothing and when I put it down to dry, I didn't realise it was at a slight angle, so now there is a big sunset blotch with a hard edge floating somewhere weird up in the sky.... Talk about a challenge I don't feel like wrestling with. I'd rather just toss it and redo it another time when I feel inspired by sunsets again.

But some days are like that. And I've decided to make my peace with it, because I've experienced enough of the creative process to know that gems are often hidden in these challenges.

In fact, I think these creative challenges are nothing more than a very clever ploy by our creative spirit to occupy the analytical, often critical, left-brain so that our creative right brain can sneak around and do what it does best without constant commentary from the peanut gallery in the logical, rational mind.

It's as if my creative brain is saying, "All right, ideas, it's safe to come out and play now. We've successfully distracted the left brain with a challenge." And then the gates open and creative ideas flood my mind like children onto a playground.

Why this matters to you.

What do you do on days when you feel challenged by your art, or by your life in general? Do you fight it?

Do you go straight into self-criticism? (That's often my first stop as well, before I realise what's actually going on.)

Do you let it be and resolve to take up where you left off tomorrow?

Whatever your situation, is there a way you can make the best use of these challenging situations?

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