Sarah Bartley

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willstorie:

An Approach to Making Things
I’m humbled by the amazing work that so many people in my life have done. It’s clear that there are a lot of really wonderful and effective and productive approaches to tapping your creativity. I’ve noticed something that’s really worked for me lately, and I’m in the mood to talk about it and pass it on. 


A lot of my favorite work I’ve made this year honors two conditions. You can try this out yourself, or just think about it, or maybe you’re already reading something else- it’s up to you! Anyway, I’ve felt really successful and liberated and good about my creative work, when I follow these two rules:


Establish your laws of form, and stay loyal to them.
Whatever the laws don’t cover, approach completely from instinct and without judgement. 
The key accomplishment of these rules- it limits your decision making. The fewer decisions you make, the less exhausted you are by the making- the more you can let your work breathe, and reveal itself, without putting all the pressure on yourself before you start.

Going over those again:
Establish your laws of form, and stay loyal to them.


Whatever you set about to make, set your structural rules beforehand. Every rule you set becomes a rule you can set aside- by adhering to that rule, you’ve removed something you have to think about, some structural issue you might otherwise worry about getting ‘just right.’

For instance, these are the laws I follow, for the paintings I’ve done this year. 

the background is a uniform plane of color
the characters fill the entire space, with little borders separating each guy
each piece needs a hero, preferably near the center of the piece- and if I don’t pull that off, make a few guys who can play the hero in any direction, however the piece might hang.
and one newer law, something that really helped me this spring- settle your individual color choices by patterns. Whatever color goes in one corner, imagine a mirror across the piece, and balance that color on the other side.
I don’t lose any mental energy with these laws- I keep with them and trust in them. The freedom that comes from not having to deal with those decisions mid-piece is key to rule 2:

2. Whatever the laws don’t cover, approach completely from instinct and without judgement. 

Editing can come later- in the moment, create freely and don’t question or criticize what your hand is doing. 
 I usually don’t know the characters I’m going to draw until they’re halfway done. I can feel in my hand when I’m going to try and make the hero, but I don’t know what he’ll look like until after it’s happening. The color choices are whatever I feel like, and once I have a few down, I fill it out from the emerging pattern.

The outcome of all this: Honoring the laws removes my decision-making on structure, and giving in to instinct streamlines my decision-making on content. The end result is some of the most effortless, joyful work I’ve ever created. The internal critic never gets his chance at the canvas.

Think of your creating, basically, as a game or a sport- we’ve agreed that the field is this shape, you score points by putting the ball in this area, and this is how you’re supposed to get the ball from point A to point B- now let everything else flow from your instincts and reactions. Games are fun. Creativity, played like a game, is fun. 

Painting is where this all came through to me, but it applies to tons of other arts. An actor’s job is all about expressing one’s unique, sincere instincts while following clear, unbreakable rules, as set by the script and the director. Jazz musicians know they have so many counts for the solo, and they know when it’s their turn, but whatever else happens in that moment is up to them. And in improv, where the classic beginner’s question is, “how does Don’t Think gibe with all these rules and notes,” the answer is simple- those rules and notes are about setting Rule 1 in place, so you can unleash Don’t Think with Rule 2. 

I don’t think there’s any transformative advice here, it’s just good, simple stuff to consider. And of course artists have to challenge and revisit their templates, and of course artists have to edit- but both of those steps strike me as a different kind of work, sort of like pre-production and post-production. In the flow of making something, eliminate work and just get into the play. Make the laws clear and hold to them, but then do whatever you want within those laws, without worry.

I’ve got a writing deadline this week and I’ve had a terrible time with it, trying to have the entire story unlocked and worth telling before I get started. Today I’m going to set some structural laws for myself, and let instinct do the rest. We’ll see how it goes. I’m optimistic. 
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willstorie:

An Approach to Making Things

I’m humbled by the amazing work that so many people in my life have done. It’s clear that there are a lot of really wonderful and effective and productive approaches to tapping your creativity. I’ve noticed something that’s really worked for me lately, and I’m in the mood to talk about it and pass it on. 
A lot of my favorite work I’ve made this year honors two conditions. You can try this out yourself, or just think about it, or maybe you’re already reading something else- it’s up to you! Anyway, I’ve felt really successful and liberated and good about my creative work, when I follow these two rules:
  1. Establish your laws of form, and stay loyal to them.
  2. Whatever the laws don’t cover, approach completely from instinct and without judgement. 
The key accomplishment of these rules- it limits your decision making. The fewer decisions you make, the less exhausted you are by the making- the more you can let your work breathe, and reveal itself, without putting all the pressure on yourself before you start.
Going over those again:
  1. Establish your laws of form, and stay loyal to them.
Whatever you set about to make, set your structural rules beforehand. Every rule you set becomes a rule you can set aside- by adhering to that rule, you’ve removed something you have to think about, some structural issue you might otherwise worry about getting ‘just right.’
For instance, these are the laws I follow, for the paintings I’ve done this year. 
  • the background is a uniform plane of color
  • the characters fill the entire space, with little borders separating each guy
  • each piece needs a hero, preferably near the center of the piece- and if I don’t pull that off, make a few guys who can play the hero in any direction, however the piece might hang.
  • and one newer law, something that really helped me this spring- settle your individual color choices by patterns. Whatever color goes in one corner, imagine a mirror across the piece, and balance that color on the other side.
I don’t lose any mental energy with these laws- I keep with them and trust in them. The freedom that comes from not having to deal with those decisions mid-piece is key to rule 2:
2. Whatever the laws don’t cover, approach completely from instinct and without judgement. 
Editing can come later- in the moment, create freely and don’t question or criticize what your hand is doing. 
 I usually don’t know the characters I’m going to draw until they’re halfway done. I can feel in my hand when I’m going to try and make the hero, but I don’t know what he’ll look like until after it’s happening. The color choices are whatever I feel like, and once I have a few down, I fill it out from the emerging pattern.
The outcome of all this: Honoring the laws removes my decision-making on structure, and giving in to instinct streamlines my decision-making on content. The end result is some of the most effortless, joyful work I’ve ever created. The internal critic never gets his chance at the canvas.
Think of your creating, basically, as a game or a sport- we’ve agreed that the field is this shape, you score points by putting the ball in this area, and this is how you’re supposed to get the ball from point A to point B- now let everything else flow from your instincts and reactions. Games are fun. Creativity, played like a game, is fun. 
Painting is where this all came through to me, but it applies to tons of other arts. An actor’s job is all about expressing one’s unique, sincere instincts while following clear, unbreakable rules, as set by the script and the director. Jazz musicians know they have so many counts for the solo, and they know when it’s their turn, but whatever else happens in that moment is up to them. And in improv, where the classic beginner’s question is, “how does Don’t Think gibe with all these rules and notes,” the answer is simple- those rules and notes are about setting Rule 1 in place, so you can unleash Don’t Think with Rule 2. 
I don’t think there’s any transformative advice here, it’s just good, simple stuff to consider. And of course artists have to challenge and revisit their templates, and of course artists have to edit- but both of those steps strike me as a different kind of work, sort of like pre-production and post-production. In the flow of making something, eliminate work and just get into the play. Make the laws clear and hold to them, but then do whatever you want within those laws, without worry.
I’ve got a writing deadline this week and I’ve had a terrible time with it, trying to have the entire story unlocked and worth telling before I get started. Today I’m going to set some structural laws for myself, and let instinct do the rest. We’ll see how it goes. I’m optimistic. 
If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.

Ray Bradbury

The best advice on writing I ever received was: Invent your confidence. When you’re trying something new, insecurity and stage fright come with the territory. Many wonderful writers (and other artists) have been plagued by insecurity throughout their professional lives. How could it be otherwise? By its nature, art involves risk. It’s not easy, but sometimes one has to invent one’s confidence.

DIANE ACKERMAN

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