Herding Fish

coaching for artists and makers

Balancing Creativity

25 July 2021

I’ve been thinking about different stages that exist in an artist or maker’s practice and how the state of mind that takes a deep dive into a new idea or material is very different to the one that makes project plans or writes an application, or sets up an online shop.

At the core of Herding Fish is the balancing of creativity with the reality of completing things. What those ‘things’ are will vary enormously for different people: your practice might be a personal outlet that sits quietly alongside paid work or you might have a selling/exhibiting practice packed with deadlines (and most likely a ‘day job’ too). You might be a parent or have caring responsibilities or health challenges of your own.

The reality then is of being pulled in multiple directions, juggling different projects and commitments while hoping to earn enough income to keep going. I posted a quote from John Cleese earlier in the week: ‘Nothing will stop you from being creative as effectively as the fear of making a mistake’. When there’s a deadline looming, mistakes have consequences, and the pull to stay with what we know is strong.

I’m interested in how artists and makers keep a space in our work for the raw creativity that lets us explore ideas and express them through our chosen materials – a state of mind that can easily get crushed by the need to meet deadlines, write statements, earn a living. How do we decide which ideas to take forward, then stay focused and motivated in completing them (more on distraction and procrastination another day) and how we decide on the best ways for the work to be shared with others.

Each of us brings these qualities and skills into the mix of our individual practice – and when we stack up our multiple projects we can have aspects of all three stages fighting for our attention at any one time – and then we berate ourselves for not getting enough done!? When we acknowledge that different tasks require different aspects of ourselves, it gets easier to see when they get out of balance and to watch out for ways to protect the time we need for new ideas to emerge.