The Secret To Creative Work

November 17, 2009 · 5 comments

Do you feel a compulsion to work?

What is work? This single word is one of the most powerful in the English language. It runs the gamut from science to common labor. In physics: the exertion of force overcoming resistance, in labor, any activity or effort to accomplish a task. Work can be pleasurable or hateful, healthy or harmful. It is the bane of the lazy and a blessing for the zealous.

girl-drawingRegardless of how you view work, certain occupations fall outside the mainstream conception of what we do to earn a living. A friend of mine is a professional artist. His work is excellent and his pictures hang on walls all over the world. For reasons of privacy I will not disclose his name.

Some years back he needed help with “bread and butter” work – aside from portraits and other paintings, he was overloaded with architectural pen and ink drawings. He asked a museum director if she knew art students who might do summer work to help with the drawings, help themselves working with an established artist. And receive a stipend for their work. The response amazed him.

The art students, one and all failed to grasp a basic concept of how artists work. Artists, no matter if they write, paint or make music are compelled to work. Writers write because they must, visual artists draw and paint because it is the nature and essence of what they do. The students, like most college students saw the summer as a time to play and vacation. Only one student accepted the job. The others would not give up even a bit of the summer to broaden their knowledge in a real world environment.

Of course my artist friend takes vacations, and days off. But not in the conventional sense. Just as a writer carries a pad and pen to take notes, he always has a sketch pad close by. He “sees” pictures where others see nothing. His innate capacity for thinking in terms of line, shape and form impels him to study a face, a tree or any object in that context. He is always an artist.

No matter the discipline, an artist inherently understands this. If you are passionate about your work your mind will not stop at a given hour. You will have set a subconscious stage, open to receive and create even as you sleep.

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.
– Abraham Maslow

{ 4 comments }

Clarisa Brown November 17, 2009 at 6:25 am

This is such a wonderful post. At the end of the day, any artist in any field can be defined by what you say here. Those who have the vocation for an art form, are always doing it, whether consciously or unconsciously. This reminded me of a favorite anecdote from one of my favorite writers, James Thurber. He, by the way, was famous for the quote “If you are a writer, you write.”

The story goes that he was at a party with his wife one evening, staring off into a distant point in the room (as usual for him) and people in the party were a bit put off by his distance, and mystic stare. His wife, having lost her patience once again with her creative husband, shouted, “James stop writing!”

I remember laughing at this and thinking, yeah, that’s what it’s like. That’s how you know. If you doodle constantly, you’re a Visual Artist. If you are humming tunes of your own creation as you walk, you’re a musician. If you stand in a room looking silly while your mind creates new worlds, you’re a writer.

Thanks for another wonderful piece,

Clarisa Brown

Hal November 17, 2009 at 8:03 am

Thanks Clarisa. Great story you added to this post. I enjoyed that very much.

Michael November 18, 2009 at 8:23 am

Very nicely written and a very interesting perspective on a stubborn dilemma – the seemingly oxymoronic view of ‘creative compulsion’. Can it be? If you are forced to create due especially to external circumstances have you then created in the classical sense? Is what you have done any different than anyone else who must do in order to eat? Some may argue that to create creatively requires no catalyst except that of the passively flowing and notoriously amoebic ‘inspiration’ that comes at its own beckoning and leaves at its own whim.

Michael December 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Very nicely written and a very interesting perspective on a stubborn dilemma – the seemingly oxymoronic view of 'creative compulsion'. Can it be? If you are forced to create due especially to external circumstances have you then created in the classical sense? Is what you have done any different than anyone else who must do in order to eat? Some may argue that to create creatively requires no catalyst except that of the passively flowing and notoriously amoebic 'inspiration' that comes at its own beckoning and leaves at its own whim.

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