In our fast culture of now, now, now and our expectations that perfection is just an eye wink away, we have come to believe art can be created overnight. We don’t realize the endless exercise of revision. We limit ourselves by thinking perfection can be achieved. If we achieve perfection, then what is left for our imagination?
The Mona Lisa was created through revision, precise strokes and an analytical eye. Mozart’s “The Requiem” was meticulously composed through many errors until it was produced; and still, it is being perfected. “Hamlet” was written and re-written to the point we wouldn’t be able to tell what the original chicken scratch was to become. But, you say, these are old pieces. Modern art can’t possibly take that long. It must be finished in a day! Our entertainment society masks all the hard work that is put into music production, publishing and art displays. Creativity is treated as if it’s at everyone’s beck and call; but too often, too few get credit. Behind the scenes, there are many minds at work searching for flaws, for the hard edge that needs to be sanded down, for the fine tuning of a minute detail (or so I hope, but I doubt this about pop culture). We often see the end product and don’t consider its production. A heavy accusation is given to consumerism wherein we have a lack of appreciation of the work that it takes to make one sleeve of clothing (if you have ever tried to knit and/or sew, you know at least part of what it takes). Thus, our appreciation for creativity has also declined.
Our concept of perfection does not include work. That is not to say day dreaming has nothing to do with creativity. Please, by all means, be day dreamers! Look away from the computer, go for a walk, smell the crispness of snow, be charmed by the glow of a sunset. Which reminds me, would it kill anyone to make a sassy computer that talks back to you and tells you to get off your seat for five minutes every hour? “Blimey, you bloke, you been sittin’ on your arse for nigh on an hour and naught but Cheetos on y’a fingers!” After all, our greatest achievements in science were birthed by people who had time to day dream and wonder. Or perhaps, better yet, such a device could be programmed on people’s phones…Ah well, that’s probably a topic for another day.
Right, now, where was I? But, once you have harnessed that creativity, feed it. Give the river a place to flow. Provide boundaries. Then, tear them down and re-create them. See the raw beauty of a draft and mold it. You cannot expect your creativity to just sit there and unfold into brilliance. Thoughts and ideas are chaotic. They come and go as they please unless properly leashed. Yes, perhaps you heard someone at one point say they wrote only one or two drafts of a book. I laugh in their face. Perhaps that is good enough for them, but for me? I don’t believe anyone’s best work is completed in one, or even two, drafts. And I don’t believe in perfection. I believe in giving a story life. That is to say, it should have a beginning, a middle and an end. It should sparkle with the personality of its inhabitants and follow the guidelines that were constructed. If it has done a proper job of conveying my thoughts in the least convoluted way imaginable, then I will consider it finalized (not, dear people, to be confused with perfection). It should not, however, ever pursue such a codswallop of a thing as “perfect.”
Fellow artists, when are you satisfied? How do you arrive at that satisfaction? After the final product, do you find more items to scrutinize?