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Painting by Guido Borelli

Rilke on the Lonely Patience of Creative Work …
“Leave to your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything. Everything is gestation and then bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life; in understanding as in creating.”


William Faulkner gave a writing class at his alma mater. “You want to be writers?” he addressed the huge class. “So write.” And he walked out. Great class.


I used to think bearing witness was a passive act. I don’t believe that anymore. I think that when we are present, when we bear witness, when we do not divert our gaze, something is revealed — the very marrow of life. We change. A transformation occurs. Our consciousness shifts.
— Terry Tempest Williams

“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders”.
Andrew Harvey

Anything you create comes out of your mind. Not knowing the techniques of your métier is correctable but not having access to your creative mind can be fatal. Those who do have access, someone like Faulkner for example, might not understand your problem if you don’t. If you aspire to create you will need a good relationship with yourself.

You can’t be harassing and criticizing yourself. Self doubt has to be overcome by working.

Conventional education, with its many rules and standards, may interfere with the irrational movements of the creative process. The thing that helps the most is passion, some kind of love of the activity. Joy fuels creation better than rules and precepts.

On the one hand, Faulkner is right that if you want to write you should just do it because too much guidance can smother your ability to befriend your creative instincts. If you envision a product clearly your problem becomes simply how to realize it, but that’s only one way to create. I’m one of those people who proceeds by feel. I don’t usually have a clear idea of what I’m doing until I’m halfway through. I just write the next sentence and then the next, pretty much the way I paint.

I discover what I’m doing by doing it. That works for me. I can endure not knowing where I’m going until I arrive. Everybody has to discover their own way of creation. There’s no one-size-fits-all. There’s no lack of inspiring masters in the world to imitate, but it’s important to watch your levels of personal energy because that’s where your unique voice resides.

Work hard. Work consistently, but stay in touch with yourself. That’s where your passion comes from. You won’t get far on dutiful dedication in art. There has to be joy.

Creative work is notoriously underpaid. It’s always a mistake to judge a work by how much people are willing to pay for it. The market distorts artistic value. The artist is grappling with vision, technique and access to creative consciousness on top of that, which is difficult enough. Everyone has a right to try, but few stick with it because it involves struggle and pain.

The judgement of others is a discouraging tool you have to learn to take with a grain of salt. Everyone has an opinion. The creator of any work of art has to learn to leave judgement to the judgers and keep working. Positive or negative, any qualitative assessment of your work is either helpful or it’s nothing, and it’s a mistake to invest too much credence in it.

Your best work comes from your depths. How you create out of your deepest self is a dance and it’s not always under your control.

Working is the one answer to the question whether your work has value or not. What other people think is mostly just noise. I believe it’s important to create, but we do it for our own sanity, not approval. If we do it to impress others we are already lost. When we fall in love, do we do it for other people?

It’s the same for art.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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