5.09.2009

Make it Mean Something


The basic principle of every spiritual and religious practice is: This is happening. Make it mean something. It’s the only choice we have.

It is true in our creative practice, too. Take what’s happening in your notebooks, sketchbook, in your daydreaming brain and linefield, and shape it into something meaningful. Don’t lament lack of talent, or what you deem useless through the lens of someone else’s judgement. Arm yourself with belief that your only option is to be present and to respond to what is happening now. That response may be to practice more, but it may also be to continue finding those original and subterranean things, drawing them out, combining and presenting them.

“This is happening, make it mean something” is our guiding principle. As artists and people, we can effect what is “happening” through study and practice, but additionally in art, we have the option to discard something if it isn’t working. We can abort unsatisfying things and begin some new “happening.”

Use this explorative time, this play space and time where you’ve allowed yourself to be braver than you might be in real life, to challenge your assumptions and to fail over and over again.

Don’t like a sketch? Redraw it. Or combine it with some other doodle. Revise, shape or discard. Just continue and don’t dismiss your own efforts. Honor them, make them mean something. Even if you decide to chalk your efforts up to “practice” and move on.

The beginnings of art-making can be messy. Lots of searching and collecting. When its fast its called brainstorming, when its slow its called woolgathering or sometimes composting.

Either way I liken it to the shape of a funnel. A lot going in early on. A lot being sampled and tried, a lot being tested. As we continue, we’re less random and instead find more and more relevant ideas and images. Suddenly the irrelevant ideas and images have less pull. Irrelevant to what? To the themes, patterns and main ideas that are starting to emerge...

I like Jack Kerouac’s opinion: “Something you feel will find its own form.”

When that form begins to appear you can go back and edit out stuff not working, material that’s not serving to illuminate your themes.

Save the stuff that’s not working for the next project. Add it to your store. File it away somewhere and start from there next time you think you don’t have an idea. It meant enough to jot down once. Will it mean something again? It might, it might not, but try it. That’s always the first step.

So what can we do to stay active? How can we stay engaged, find meaning and keep believing? What follows in these postings are some ideas about searching tirelessly for new content, some methods for subverting the critical mind before we’re read for it, and an array of first and later steps to get you moving, keep you questioning and playing with your own material, and staying engaged forever.

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