Having never formally studied Art, my creative is process is probably a little unsophisticated: I daily try to live the most vital, engaged, and interesting (to me) life I possibly can. Intentional. Passionate. Sensual. Simple. I draw the cleanest water from as many wells as I can find, and listen to the most interesting voices. And I do as I please when I hear the muse begin to whisper. Sometimes that’s picking up a camera, sometimes it’s a notebook and pen. Sometimes it’s neither. But I act on it. Scribbles, drawings, or sketch images made with whatever camera I have on me. A great many very bad photographs have been made this way, but I don’t censor my images any more than I censor my ideas, because creating a good photograph is no different than creating a good idea: stop short of creating the bad ones and you’ll never see them lubricate the cogs that lead to the best ones.
What refines the good ideas and makes them great, then sets about putting them out into the world, is work. Often very hard work. The idea that inspiration comes from work is trumpeted by so many artists that we’d be foolish to close our ears or minds to it. My art may be conceived during some hedonistic bohemian love-in with my muse, but it comes into the world, like any birth, with labour. Always.
Most artists have a messy process that begins in chaos. For the writer it’s notes scribbled on napkins and shitty first (and second, third, fourth…) drafts. For the photographer it’s frame after frame of sketches until the lines, light, and moments, finally do what you want them to. In between there is doubt and fear: we’re not good enough, the project is too large, our hopes too grand. Along the way, before our process gets us where we’re going, there is the temptation to see the incomplete fruit of our creative process – our many sketch images – as failure. Give in to this temptation and beat yourself up about the crap and you close your eyes to the good stuff yet to come. None of us can afford that.
Self-pity isn’t humility; it’s arrogance. It’s the assumption that we should make art, unlike everyone else who faces the chaos and the doubt and the hard work, easily. We should get it right the first time. Why? No one else does it that way. What makes us so special? We spent more on a better camera? We’ve paid our dues longer? We’ve got better clients and won more awards? At the risk of being too direct, the muse doesn’t give a shit about anything but your willingness to feed her and honour the process with your sweat. She doesn’t stick around longer or give you inspiration that burns with a brighter flame because of past success or how good your promotional materials are. She cares about one thing alone – the art. She doesn’t care how bruised we become, how much sleep we have to lose, or how much criticism we have to bear, in order to get there.