Inspiration, creative ruts and working though the ebb and flow

It can seem glamorous being a full time artist. I know that I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to be doing what I love every single day--for my profession to align with my passion. The truth behind it though, is that it’s not always a glittering experience. It’s a rollercoaster ride with highs, lows, and lineal bouts where it can feel like there is no motion or stimulation at all. There are severe climbs where each and every push forward takes an immense amount of work, and then there are exhilarating moments of free falling, propelling forward at lightning speed. Being an artist requires being open to what life may bring, good or bad, and it’s tough; but it’s all a part of the creative journey.

One of the great beauties of having a daily practice of making art is that it has allowed me to become deeply familiar with inspiration in all of its forms. There is nothing like the feeling of when that spark hits and each line that I draw and every cut that that I make feels like genius. My craft and I are one and I flow. It’s a steady state of butterflies where time becomes irrelevant and disappears into the depths of the creative conscious. It becomes my fuel and source for being. That high, however, eventually slows down, and sometimes even comes to an agonizing halt where work becomes mundane and even dreaded; and I hit a wall.

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“Always keep making.” These words came to me in college while I was swimming through a sea of mediums, searching for the one that would reel me in and lock into my creative space. Through the years, this has become my mantra. It has also translated into a tradition of sorts where whenever a friend has an art show, I’ll get them a creative instrument, be it a pencil, a paint brush or a hammer, with this quote tied to it. It’s the best advice I can give myself and to anyone in a creative field.

I am still navigating through that place where tasks can become stale, but I know that it’s crucial to the development of my work and of myself as artist. In the times where I am making and making and it feels like nothing new is coming through, I know that is where I am filling up my bank of stored feelings, stored designs, and all the tiny marks that eventually ignite a new movement. Some of the work created here is total shit, and that’s ok. It’s necessary as it becomes blueprints for the future.

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Going through the motions of making, of feeling tired, forces me to muster up my strength and recognize the triumphs I’ve experienced to get to where I am now. It hasn’t been easy, and I don’t ever want it to be. Working hard for what I want makes achievement even greater, and I know that I’ve overcome something in order to get there. It’s in that process of powering through that I make a breakthrough.

What I’ve realized is that after the dust of inspiration settles, often I am left with a new skill, a new direction and a new birth to my work. Though it can become monotonous, practicing over and over brings muscle memory and comfort with my craft.

I am thankful for the moments of creative flow and what comes from it. When the orders pour in after a new direction is debuted, it’s a rush, and a high that is impossible to beat. I celebrate those times, but there is always a part of me that lies in the shadows, secretly hungry for those times of tedium. It’s those moments where I force myself to keep making that I experience the most growth. That is where true inspiration is cultivated.  

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For me at this moment, I am making and making. The dust is settling from the high of my newest “vertigo” collection, and I am craving a new direction. Inspiration hasn't hit yet, and to chase it too vigorously always sets me back a bit. So, for now, I am making, getting lost in composing, meditation, mantras, and stockpiling ideas for the future - investing in my creative bank if you will.

There’s an underlying current, not a feeling of numbness, but a slow rumble of a hunger beginning its hunt for satisfaction. I have a bit further to search and climb and explore and that excites me. I feel a pull towards bringing my past into my work, joining emotion and stillness. I don't necessarily know how those dots will connect but, slowly, I feel them starting to line up.

Essay Edited by Jen Woo.