Your Art's Life Force

Are you stuck on a creative work because you no longer feel passionate about it? It happens to many creative people. I'm not going to tell you to ‘never give up.' You have to ask yourself a question, if this happens to you. What were your motives for starting it in the first place? Perhaps it was an incredibly exciting idea, you felt it best represented how you saw the world or what you wanted to put into it, or perhaps it was just the work you wanted to tell people you were working on or what you thought you should make.

If you discover that it's something you felt like you should make, rather than something you wanted to make-which happens to artists from time to time, almost as though there is another self inside of us we're trying to impress-you might consider altering the project to better suit your needs or dropping it altogether.

However, if it's a project you felt good about at one time, you might want to ask yourself where it went wrong. Were you letting certain inhibitions take hold of you? Were you trying too hard to compete with one of your heroes by answering them move for move or by directly structuring your work after theirs? Are you simply holding back because you don't want your work to drift into whimsicality or into uncharted waters? It might be all or none of these things.

The point is, you were excited about the work and you are no longer. I've had this happen to me with a book I was writing for years and am still working on. I was worried that the storyline was going stale. The book was a long one, and as I kept writing, I realized that nothing was happening. It didn't have any of the energy I wanted it to have. The characters weren't clicking, the story wasn't extreme enough or moving enough to me.

Having taken some time away from it, I came back to it and realized that I had been saving up all my best ideas and timidly withholding them from the story. It was as though I was saving all the best stuff for some later book.

I forced myself to think about the book in a detached way. What were the best set of images and ideas I had thought up so far? How could I embellish them? What techniques had I been excited to try but which had faded out of the picture in favor of how I thought the book should be written? What were my themes and had I picked the best vehicles to embody them? I thought about what I needed to do to make it a book that, by its mere description alone, would be something that I, personally, would want to read before anything else.

The book had been alive in my head before I sat down to write it, but with time, it started to lose its life force. Sometimes you have to go back to that excitement and find its life force. To be less mystical and more specific, you have to change the work in order to please you again. If it's an idea that you've been invested in for a while, it's possible that you're just looking at it through a fog of discouragement and ego.

If you invest time into going back and finding that original force of excitement for you in your work, you won't have to worry about whether or not you have the stamina to finish it. You'll do it because the activity is pleasing to you. You won't fret if you miss a day, for you'll feel the work tugging at you.

You may need discipline in the beginning. I've mentioned in another post that, if you're starting out as an artist, you might want to set yourself a quota. However, I think everything I've mentioned in this post is important too. A quota won't mean anything at all if you get halfway through the project and have absolutely no excitement for it.

Don't be afraid of the project changing too much. That'll happen if you're trying to make something that fulfills you. Allow room for change. You can always look at the project in its entirety later and change what you need to.

Shane Eide