Monday, February 1, 2010

Creative Energies and the Artist

Recently, my sister and I were discussing what it means to be an artist, and what it's like to have an artistic perspective of the world. Following our talk, she wrote a great blog on the subject. As I was thinking more about some things that make an artist unique, I stumbled across another fascinating realization. While some artists are extremely focused and narrow in their forms of artistic expression, some artists use various mediums to express themselves. There are advantages and disadvantages of both sorts of artists. Multi-media artists, who have several means of creative expression, often have a broader creative vision and sometime have broader-scope insights into life, as well as having added flexibility in how they choose to express themselves at a given time or to a specific audience. Single-media artists, who express themselves primarily through one form of creative expression, generally do not have as much breadth of insight, but their focus on one form of expression often results in greater mastery of their preferred method of art. Their dedication can lead them to excel at their preferred form of art. Most artists that I know, however, do not solely fit one category or the other. Instead, there is typically some sort of balance between the two, with a bit of an emphasis on breadth or an emphasis on dedication.

As an aspiring renaissance man, I am definitely a multi-media artist with several major interests and artistic outlets. In seeking to develop my various faculties and talents, I often have to prioritize my uses of energy. As much as it might be desirable to have a never-ending source of creative energy, the simple truth of the matter is that there is a limit to how much creative energy a person has, and how much time can be spent pursuing art. All artists recognize this truth. Sometimes you have seemingly limitless ideas, yet there is simply never quite enough time to bring all of them to fruition. Other times, you have the desire to do something creative, and the time needed to do it, but lack the necessary energy. The first part seems quite intuitive to me, yet the second part struck me especially strongly last Friday. Last week, I spend a lot of time in the studio, producing and recording a new song that I wrote a few weeks ago. While finishing the song and releasing it was quite a fulfilling process, I also felt that I had significantly less creative energy remaining to engage in other creative endeavors. Writing is another creative outlet that I much enjoy. However, when Friday came around and I sat down to write, I found that though I had the desire to write, and though I had a couple of topics that I felt inspired to write about, I was completely lacking in creative energy. I could tell that even trying to write for 3 or 4 hours would hardly be sufficient for me to write even a mediocre post about any of the things I wanted to write about. The energy to write a post bursting with inspiration and creativity simply wasn't there. Since mediocrity is something that I never settle for, I didn't bother writing anything at all.

This brought me to a simple realization: just as human beings have a limited amount of physical energy to expend during a day, we also have a limited amount of creative energy. The second, a more profound realization, is an expansion on the first: multi-media artists are more likely to hit their energy limits than single-media artists, since multi-media artists typically have more ideas that they seek to realize. For this reason, proper priorization is vital for multi-media artists. While lost or wasted energy for a single-media artist only affects one discipline, lost or wasted energy for a multi-media artists affects all of their artistic disciplines. This fact presents one more insight to be gleaned: the importance of proper prioritization and efficiency rises proportionally with the number of artistic outlets an artist has.

Multi-media artists, because of their multiple artistic disciplines, are capable of higher overall creative output, because they typically have more active sources of inspiration, and because they are more likely to utilize their creative energies to the fullest. Single-media artists are capable of higher-quality output, and higher quantities of output in their primary artistic field, although their overall artistic output will generally be somewhat lower than the multi-media artist, due to having fewer active sources of inspiration, and less incentive to fully utilize all of their creative energy. This offers artists an interesting choice of which method to pursue. Both types methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. There are the Ludwig Beethovens of the world, who are renowned for their lifelong pursuit of one creative field, and there are the Leonardo Da Vincis of the world, who are known for their sublime contributions to numerous fields of life. There are the Adam Smiths of the world, who completely revolutionize a single field, and the Isaac Newtons of the world, who make notable strides forward in several fields of study.

What is your natural artistic tendency? Do have one favorite form of creative expression that dwarfs all others? Or, do you have several means of creative output, accompanied by the desire to hone your skills in each artistic discipline?


  1. Good post. Brought to mind the ebb and flow of creative cycles. Having either more or fewer active sources of inspiration than others doesn't seem to matter when one is experiencing 'writer's block.' How would this fit in with what you are saying?

    P.S. Yes, I am in a rut.

  2. @lordsomber: I don't believe in writer's block. Either one has a lack of energy, or a lack of inspirtation. What people typically refer to as "writer's block" seems to be a lack of inspiration. They can't think of anything creative to write.

    With a lack of energy, the best solution is to take a break and recharge. Don't even try to do anything creative.

    A lack of inspiration, on the other hand, is a symptom of lack of imagination. The cure to such a disease is found in practicing creativity and seeking new sources of inspiration. Read something by your favorite author. Take a walk outside. Chat with a smart friend. Meet some new people. Soon, you'll find ample sources of inspiration...

  3. With a lack of energy, the best solution is to take a break and recharge. Don't even try to do anything creative.

    I definitely agree. But, to me, what people refer to as 'writer's block' isn't a lack of inspiration, but a lack of focus.
    A lot of art (or even a concept) that begins in one's mind has germinate and grow before a 'big picture' appears and you can put brush to paper.
    Like you said, take a break and recharge.

    The inspiration (the 'light bulb') I find is the revelation of an underlying theme/motif to tie together disparate elements.

    For example, for years I had a story in my head with no real reason to write it. It had two characters, unrelated yet related. The 'lightbulb' moment was when I realised the characters were actually converses of each other. Finally, focus!

    Anyway, I'm more of an artist than writer, FWIW.
    Thanks for your reply.

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  6. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in
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