“In the beginning, God created . . .” we all know the story. Out of darkness He made light. One could imagine that He was alone and that He had a vision that was undisturbed- perfect– if you will. Each day he created something new, and at the end of the day, like an artist stepping back from his easel and evaluating his work, He said, “It was good.” On the seventh day, whatever the measurement of God’s days are, He rested. Whatever “rest” might mean to Him, the example was set to step back, break the pace, reflect.
There’s a fragile, delicate, almost secret time in each creation, usually at the beginning: a time when the juices are flowing and yet we have no real firm idea of their direction. The world is open and, as the poet says, still has dew upon it. The possibilities are endless at this point, so we cautiously wait and expectantly listen. We are careful to speak of it for fear that words might spoil it, and the thought of sharing the idea (at this stage) is abhorrent, for if we do, we might get feedback- or none- that causes us to question or doubt the process. We are nurturing a newborn, protecting the nest from the outside world. You can’t expect the seed to grow if you dig it up every hour to see how it’s doing- it will certainly die. The process is intimate and private.
For this reason, many artists (Andrew Wyeth was one) never allow anyone to view a work in progress. Early in his career, Norman Rockwell asked so many people what they thought, that he lost all direction amidst the opinions. Eventually losing any vestige of his original idea- he scrapped the piece. Opinions can be the death knell to the creative process. As helpful as counsel or advise from another artist might be at a difficult moment in the process, the potential of someone stomping on your crystal glass with army boots, is always there.
It’s a time of wandering around in the hallways of your mind, opening doors and peeking into one room and then another, to see if there’s anything there that you can take hold of and make your own. In part we are searching for the unknown and hoping to be surprised by it. If I open this door, what will I see? Where will I go? Where will it lead? What AM I looking for?
It’s been said that the most important things are those that we cannot think; (they are simply beyond our imagining). The second most important things are those things that we can think, but cannot say- or express. The least of these are those things that we say (or express). So, it appears that the idea weakens as it finds the light of day; has spurts of vision, and then, with a lot of coaxing, takes on a life of its own. But it can be very much like building a snowman in the sun; the original idea is melting away as we work before we can see its full realization.
We try to surprise ourselves with something new and different. This is the joy of it all! To wake up and make a new, fresh thing. Something never made or seen before. And maybe not tell a soul; guard it till it’s done. Don’t even ask yourself what it is!
In this way we are jumping from the cliff and designing our wings on the way down.
I cannot speak for you, but for me, if you are watching and you see me at the top of the cliff with my arms full and a mad look about me, turn away! Please don’t stare, and please don’t place a net at the bottom of the cliff trying to save me- you’ll ruin the whole thing!
And besides, I’ll just have to jump again when you’re not looking.