As an artist, I’m not all that excited about the things I make after I have made them. It’s not that I’m not proud, or that I don’t care. It’s more that, once it is out in the world it no longer belongs to me.
An idea is like a baby, it needs attention and cultivating and to be taught. How it manifests is in large part a reflection of yourself. Art is not always a mirror, but it’s definitely like a stamp. Leaving your imprint on the world, the ink not coming off quite right every time.
Ideas – like babies – grow up. You put your time and energy and emotions into it until it is it’s own thing and you either have to accept that, although you birthed it, you are separate from it. You accept that you have to let it go or let it die.
At least, that’s what I’ve been learning. I wrote a book, and I’m trying very hard to not walk away from all the work that has to be done post-creation. I don’t want to talk to people about it, I don’t know what the underlying themes are, I can’t seem to muster the courage to talk to a shop keeper. I just want it to exist and for the people who come into contact with it to feel something but I am not truly excited and I am not truly invested. I know that there is more to make, and better things to be made and this… is already done. This is what I call Artist Dissociation. When you are no longer attached to the life-line of the work you have done, and often the person you were when you made that.
I was talking to a man who has been an artist for the greater part of his life and I told him that I was feeling far away from my work. He said to me
“Good. Let go of it, it’s not yours now that you have made it. Your mark is there, but you need to let go if you want to create more.”
I wrote this book because I couldn’t stop thinking about it while I was trying to write another. And now, I can’t stop thinking about the other book I was trying to write. Now, I don’t care so much that I created. That I made something. As humans, we make things everyday -meals, mistakes, laughter. Words. Paintings. Habits. And then we spend the rest of the time trying to rid ourselves of it – running off calories, saying our sorries, trying so damn hard just to not bite our nails.
So, we are consumed. And we make, break it down, build it up, and repeat it all again. These patterns in our lives keep going on but we forget to make space. It is hard to really let go. Our houses seem small only because they are filled with things. Our heads seem cluttered because we think that reminding ourselves to feed our ideas is the same as nourishing them. The same as bringing them alive. We are attached to everything, so where is the room for anything new to bud?
Like plants, we need room to root. Like plants, we do not bloom year round, we suffocate with too much of any good thing, we keep sending water to the withered parts of ourselves because we are still holding on, we resent that the pot just isn’t big enough for everything or everyone. But the truth is, we have a choice.
Creatively, every project that is made and finished is like a stepping stone. In order for that to mean anything, you have to choose to go somewhere. And if you don’t let go, then you also don’t move on. Sometimes it means there is a lack of excitement post production, sometimes that means there is a lack of anything. It can be a scary void of “will I ever make anything again?” and “is that the best thing I will ever make?” and at the end of the day, whether the answer to those questions is yes or no, it doesn’t change that what is done… is already done.
What I’m getting at is that Artist Dissociation is a normal thing. It’s part of the process. You feel and put so much into what you do, and it is okay to afterwards let go of that feeling. To let go of the excitement. To want to move on and make more – or simply to just move on because that is the way things go.
Written by Forest Greenwell