When I first began writing, I took a class from a teacher who said it should never take anyone longer than 10 months to write a book. I remember wondering if this was really true, and immediately thought of a fellow artist I know who took eight years to write his first book. And then I wondered how people come up with these seemingly arbitrary timelines.
External demands can easily squash creative process, unless they are truly aligned with the essence of a project. This isn’t to say deadlines aren’t useful, they most certainly are. Most work doesn’t get finished without one. But, too often deadlines are created without an awareness of what a project is trying to become and the time it will take to get there. Honoring process in our work means tuning into the nature of what is trying to be born.
As artists, we must learn how to listen to our creations and not push them out too fast, nor keep them unexpressed for too long. Maintaining a steady rhythm of work helps us to really get in sync with the pace of any given project, and allow for variation. When I wrote my first book, The Reluctant Artist, it was a much more straightforward process than my current book project is turning out to be. I felt that in some ways the first book had already been written before I officially began it, and my job was to compile material from old blog posts, newsletters, journal writing, etc. Because so much of it already existed, albeit in random places, the work of culling through material and organizing it fit with a tighter and shorter timeline. The process felt pretty well-defined.
This book is turning out to be a much more organic journey. It feels as though I am living it as I am writing it. Thus by default, the timeline is longer and looser. For the act of living, of course, is not something that can be sped up or stuffed into a neat package. Whereas the first book was more left brain, this one is more right brain, and it’s become quite clear that something entirely different wants to born this time around.
We enjoy our creativity more when we stop judging a project’s particular rhythm, and instead, get in sync with what it wants to be. As we listen, we learn that every creation has an identity. And when we allow for process, adjusting expectation and outcome accordingly, we nurture these unique identities. We liberate our art from a cookie cutter mold.
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