The Creation Myth



In my last blog post I talked about ‘drift time’, often disguised as daydreaming, and how absolutely critical it is to the creative process. In this post I want to explore some other ideas about our lives as working artists, writers…creatives.

As well as making art and exploring the creative process, I also work as a creativity coach. It has been a quiet addition to my skill set that I haven’t spoken about publicly, until now…and something I’m building on and incorporating into my life and work.

I’ve always had a passion for helping others, so this work has brought together two of my deepest interests – art making and the way we relate to our art. So far it’s been endlessly gratifying. It’s work that I really enjoy and plan to build upon this year.

What I’m finding most fascinating is the discovery of the commonalities that many creatives share in being able to support and nurture their art making. One of the major topics I discuss with those I work with is this ‘drift time’. Why it’s important, how to make more room for it in our lives, and what to do when the noise in our head is drowning out any possibility of connecting with our ideas so we can be in a place for inspiration to show up.

We talk about having to make a conscious effort to not fall into the trap of being distracted, or being ‘pinged’ as I heard someone once call it, out of our creative mindset. The ‘ping’ being the latest email or text coming in…and that compulsion to look at it. It’s addictive and takes discipline to not allow yourself to succumb to temptation. I know….because I struggle with it constantly!

One of the things I’ve noticed for myself is that traversing the vast unknown, which is what creativity is, naturally generates anxiety. We inherently don’t want to encounter the unknown….and for good reason. It’s risky! So we subconsciously find ways to avoid what’s uncomfortable and we take ourselves out of that discomfort by way of distractions….like social media or household chores. “I’ll just finish up this really important load of laundry before I get in the studio.” Really!?!

The distraction of technology has the added edge of making us feel like we’re being productive, when we’re really just avoiding doing our creative work. We can disguise it as research, getting ready, or even essential learning. And on some level this may be true….but if we’re always getting ready, we’re simply not getting to the making of the actual art.

So it is essential that we get ourselves to our creative work even when we feel uninspired or full up with chatter or unable to focus.

One thing that helps me get into a better space for creativity is a transition ritual upon entering the studio. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Its purpose is really just to bring my awareness to the present moment and help me open my mind to the drift time.

My transition ritual involves lighting an essential oil infuser in the studio, making a cup of tea, and taking a few minutes to write in my sketchbook journal. Somehow these small acts indicate that I’m ready to move into a different space and I find my mind unlocks from all the noise and starts to gently begin to drift. Before long I’m ready to work on something, anything….and the creative flow is with me.

In fact, some of my best studio days occur on the days when I really didn’t think I had it in me because I was so scattered and noisy in my head. This realization has helped me immensely and I work closely with my clients to get them to a place where they can do this for themselves as well. It’s kind of a freeing experience actually. It gives us a sense of empowerment to know that we can shift our mind space and do what it is we we’re meant to do….make our art.

As painter Chuck Close says “I don’t work with inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work.”

It’s a myth that we artists wait for inspiration to strike before getting to work. An essential part of being a working artist is showing up and making our art. Inspiration will find you working!

Do you have any transition rituals that help bring you into your creative space? I would love to hear about any insights you have on this topic….please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below…and then promptly get yourself back into the studio!

10 Comments On: The Creation Myth
  • annie Commented On March 5, 2016

    OMG Cheryl you’ve stuck a chord with me today!

    I think I am the queen of using the distraction of technology…gee maybe I should be in the studio right now instead of commenting? You’ve named exactly what it is I tell myself I’m doing – just a bit more inspiration please, I’ll browse a bit on Pinterest, or maybe I should send that one email so that he gets it by the time I’m ready to come out of the studio, or I REALLY should probably go out for errands first.

    Somehow when you named these things I realized that I’m not alone in this form of resistance to getting the work done. I’m at a transition point in my work and fearful of the creative risks I’d like to take. Feeling tired thinking about all the many BAD paintings I’m going to have to make until I can really find what I’m looking for. It’s enough to make a girl take up a new online passion!

    Starting today I’m going to invent a new transition ritual that doesn’t involve the computer!

    • cheryltaves Commented On March 6, 2016

      Hi Annie,
      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your own experience with resistance. I’m so glad my post struck a cord with you…I think it’s a common issue for many of us.

      I so relate to what you’re experiencing right now with transitioning. I’m doing the same, pushing to get somewhere else in my work…and, you’re right, there is nothing like that to generate discomfort and fear!

      Recently, I gave myself a week long, self-directed, artist retreat at home and began my days without checking in with my devices and email, but went straight to the studio to write and engage the work. This helped a lot with getting me over that hump and allowed me to start making those “bad” paintings (a necessary part of growing in our work, right!). Although, I’m still searching….it helped me to push past the resistance and just begin.

      So much of the artistic practice is dealing with our “mental” space with our work…what we take on as we risk, fail and grow. Not easy, but necessary to manage in order to stay in the work.

      I hope your studio time is fruitful and that you find the growth in your painting….let me know how it goes!
      All the best,

  • Kevin Ghiglione Commented On March 7, 2016

    Hi Cheryl,

    I totally agree with you when you said “An essential part of being a working artist is showing up and making our art. ”

    I knew it was going to be a disruptive day on Saturday when I was painting. So I chose a task that I could be easily be interrupted. I still got stuff done amidst the business of the day. Of course when everybody got sorted out I went deeper into thought to take care of the painting.

    I am such a messy painter. One thing I do all the time is tidy up! This gets my hands on things. I get moving. Thinking. Your title ‘The Creation Myth’ sounds so enchantingly exotic. In reality I am just some guy… doing some art…. in some messy studio… somewhere. It is far from exotic. But that is the way it works.

    An aside note… years ago I was once at a proper fancy event with a date. I was the artist and everyone else around me was from another field of work. During dinner the woman beside me casually asked me what I did for work. “I am an artist” I replied. Well.. she got this glint in her eye and knowingly smiled and said ” I have read about you guys in your studio… always having sex!” What could I say? Should I let her down? I think I replied with “… well… not all the time…” Yes, there are other myths out there too!

    • cheryltaves Commented On March 7, 2016

      Love this story, Kevin! Glad you didn’t let your inquisitive acquaintance down…..keeping the myths alive! As they say, what happens in the studio stays in the studio 😉

      Yes, finding the ways to keep involved in our work even when distractions abound is a skill set I really need to cultivate. I appreciate you mentioning the idea of working on less critical parts of our work when we know that we’re likely to be interrupted. And, tidying is one of my rituals too….anything that prepares the space – mental and physical!

      Thank you, as always, for your contributions. I admire your committed and strong work ethic….your painting reflects this in spades!

  • Martha Commented On March 7, 2016

    This got me thinking about a teacher of mine who once said that the Muse is a sensitive creature and gets her nose out of joint if you say you will be working in the studio and then don’t show up. If you snub her enough times then she may stop being there when you decide to work. You gotta keep your promises! If you tell yourself you will be in the studio then show up, or your Muse may decide to go elsewhere!
    This has me thinking about writing about this for my next blog post. Thank you Cheryl!

    • cheryltaves Commented On March 7, 2016

      Thank you for your comment, Martha! I love what your teacher had to say about the Muse…

      Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this in her new book ‘Big Magic’…the concept that idea are things and search out the artist that will realize them, that are ready and receptive to bring that idea to life. If you’re not receptive and committed they move on to someone else. She shares a specific story in her book about her own experience with this….it’s crazy!

      Look forward to your next blog post!! I’ve been enjoying all your sharing so far – keep it up!! Thank you!

  • Sue davis Commented On March 9, 2016

    Hi Cheryl,
    I find it really helpful to hear what everyone has to say about the difficulties around maintaining a continuity in our art practice. As you say, being able to cut ourselves off from the world around us when we need to is very important. The need for isolation is vital, but also not an easy thing. An artist needs to be able to tolerate loneliness and an ability to be with themselves without being interrupted by others, or finding ways to ( subconsciously) interrupt themselves. It is only now, at the age of 58, that I have found I can do this without fear of loneliness, and can see how it was difficult to have the courage to tolerate this earlier in my life. It is now paying dividends as my work slowly but surely seems to improve. Thanks for your great posts.

    • cheryltaves Commented On March 10, 2016

      Hi Sue,
      I appreciate your insights and joining in on the conversation here…thank you so much!

      You’re so right about the need to embrace alone time, finding comfort with the isolation. In recent years I, too, have become very comfortable with my time alone. For me, it’s getting enough of it that is the real challenge!

      Glad to hear that you’re experiencing the benefits of this understanding…and that your work is showing growth as a result. How wonderful for you!

      Again, thanks for your contribution…and bringing up such a valid point.

  • Liese Gauthier Commented On April 6, 2016

    Thank you Cheryl,
    I appreciate your post, and agree with the sentiment.
    I don’t have a transition ritual, but I do drink a lot of tea! :)
    It sounds to me like your transition ritual is a way to take care of yourself. I think that it can be easy to confuse inspiration with self-maintenance. I need to take care of myself with excersice, alone time, or a cup of tea- then suddenly I feel “inspired” to get back to making art!

    • cheryltaves Commented On April 8, 2016

      Thank you for your comment, Liese! Drinking tea is a studio must! Yes, good self care is all part of sustaining an art practice for me as well. My quiet times always lead me to finding more space to create from….it’s essential! Hope you’re art making is always inspired!

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