Two days before Christmas I put a tablecloth over my art desk and shifted my attention away from paint mixes, canvas scraps and the rumpled pages of my sketchbook. Art breaks are wonderful and I take them several times every year. And each break has a companion: a new beginning.
Beginning is the central rhythm of a creative practice. There are many things that press us into the other ways of living: routine, and responsive modes – taking care of the things in our life, attending to what pops up – as well as passive ones, like rest and waiting and allowing.
It is important though to protect our capacity inhabit a creative, active mode too. This is, of course, not about becoming a 'great artist' but about being alive, about being ourselves, and saying a little something about it while we are here.
I have a unique capacity to make and say things that have never, and would never, exist otherwise – and so do you.
I nurture my creative fluency by making loads of marks, shapes, smudges, paintings, and phrases. I am also a human, and tired, and have a lot of hard days. It's tempting to go looking for motivation, some kind of surge to overcome whatever art-resisters I carry around. But my preference is the opposite: I like to make my creative practice feel really, really easy.
I once heard someone say, about organizing a house and keeping it tidy, that people often go wrong because they organize things so that they are easy to access, when it actually works better to set it up so that things are easy to put away. They said that the moment when you need something is when you have the most motivation while putting things away is often the point of lowest motivation. And we do best when we make things as easy as possible for ourselves at the moment of lowest motivation.
This idea has influenced my approach to art practice quite a bit: I took time to notice my point of lowest motivation and have since tried to make that part as easy as I can. For me, beginning is the part I'm most like to never do. Once I get going I'm usually able to continue and I'm also able to stop when I'm done. So, I stack all the comforts on getting going.
Here are some of the ways I do that: