Circling back around to something I wrote about almost two years ago – Creating Art is Creating Yourself. Back then, I said: “Creating art, putting it out there, getting the feedback through publication, letting failure help you begin more wisely. Creating art is creating yourself, providing you’re willing to let the process change you.”
Still true, and it’s time to talk about creating art and creating yourself now that I have a better understanding of what creativity does for, and to, you. If you’ll permit me, I’d like to articulate some of the things I’m still confused about, and leave myself open to the answers to some challenging questions.
I started Inkican in 2016 because I had some questions I had to answer. Who am I? What am I trying to say? How can my voice connect me to others? How can that conversation make the world better? Actually, let me take a step back – I didn’t have questions inside of me. I just new I had something inside – something that no amount of self-destructive behavior would kill. What was that thing? What did it want me to do?
It took me years to understand that, and I’m still working to understand. I don’t have the whole story yet, but I’ve gotten better at articulating the problem and potential solutions, and all this Inkican work is the reason why. This thing inside me has to come out.
It reminds me of an old song by a guy named John Lee Hooker. He recorded a song called Boogie Chillen’ and one line in the song always stuck with me: “One night, I was laying down and I heard mama and papa talking. Papa told Mama: ‘Let that boy boogie-woogie – it’s in him, and it’s got to come out.'” Yeah, people. It’s in me, and it’s got to come out. This Inkican work is about getting it out.
How do you get it out? Well, you start. Simple as that, get whatever’s inside of you out – colored pencils on a blank sheet of paper, acrylic paint on a blank canvas, or in my case a keyboard and a blank screen. Just start, make something, write something down. Then look at it. Does *that* resonate with your soul?
Then you share it with others. ‘Here is something my creativity has moved me to make. Does it resonate with you?’ The act of self-expression is the first step in a feedback loop that helps you collect signal about your perceptions, experiences, and perspectives.
But wait, what’s ‘signal?’ Just as an army signals intelligence officer listens to everything happening around them, you’re listening to everyone who experiences your creation and catching their response. That’s ‘collecting signal.’ Where do you collect signal? In person, social media, whatever medium you’re using to put your work out there. As you create, publish, and listen, you’re looking for the answers to some important questions: What is the signal – what are people saying? What does it mean? What was I right about? What was I wrong about?
The next thing is covered in my Survival Guide for Creative People – managing your reaction to the signal. Some people like your work? Awesome! Many others do not? Catastrophe! Without proper management and preparation, you may find yourself drowning in a sea of emotions you weren’t expecting. Nobody ever tells you how to handle it when you find out that people think your work sucks.
Learning how to manage those emotions, channel the signal into actions, accepting that your ‘failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again?’ That’s all part of the process of creating yourself.
Creativity is an illeism that allows you to put your emotions, your experience in the third person so you can step back and gain perspective you’d never get otherwise. Create your art, let your art create you.