I recently gave a talk at my church Circle of Hope about my relationship with God and how it's impacted my creative life. It took me almost a month to write the talk and I think it really helped me pinpoint the message I so desperately needed to hear when I started my art life. That the secret to making good art is doing it really badly at first. That's how anyone gets started. No one has magical hands that makes finished work appear. You have to start bad to get to good. And it's really, really hard to face these bad first sketches. Alas, it's the big secret. And it's one that needs to be said over and over again. Here's the first paragraph of the talk.
A few years ago, I was a part-time teacher and one of the classes I taught was a kids class and as I sat down to write this talk, a memory from teaching came to me. One time, before class, I overhead a parent say to her daughter in the most encouraging and motherly way, “Paint me something pretty for the kitchen and I’ll frame it.” For some reason, this memory makes me cringe. It’s perfectly fine to frame art and put it on the wall when it’s done. That is ultimately where finished art will go. In the end, it’ll be out in the open, it’s meant for others to see. But, it’s really hard to START making art if that’s your goal from the beginning… Making art requires terrible first drafts, thumbnail sketches that don’t look like much, messes and mistakes and hours of seemingly wasted time - and it’s hard to confront this chaotic process in our performance minded society. I think this is a reason why our society is somewhat unfamiliar with the real creative process. It’s hard to sit at your desk and make terrible work (which is what you need to do to get to good work) when your inner dialogue is asking, ‘Is it worth framing and hanging in the kitchen?’
There's a recording of the talk here. Below are the slides from the talk. If you're interested, give it a listen!
The talk was very much influenced by Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. I quote the book in the talk and I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in the real creative process.