Here is an excerpt from an interview I gave this week on the creative process. These questions were a lot of fun to consider. The whole thing is much longer and part of a collection of interviews done with creative individuals.
What are the internal elements of your creative process?
For me process takes time. It unfolds and reveals itself as my mind, work and creativity formulates through my waking hours as well as my sleeping hours. Depending on what I’m working on, if it’s acting or writing… the process can be different. But fundamentally it parallels my work ethic. Which, if I’m being honest, needs a kick in the ass from time to time. I can easily get distracted. So I need incentive. I need deadlines. And I need feel like other people are dependent on me to do my part of the job. If I don’t have that kind of incentive, I wont get anything done. To understand that about myself is very empowering.
In part, I like to think deeply and thoroughly about a lot of things. I use writing a lot in the course of my creative process in a way to help me clarify my thoughts and my concepts about things. I’m also visually and audibly inspired so I use pictures and all kinds of music to influence my choices.
I’ve been an actor for a long time, but actually I’m also a conceptual person and visual person and much more of a verbal person than I sometimes give myself credit for. For example many of my ideas are carried around in my head and then I talk to people about them. Those people are consciously chosen, as to support my ideas and not crush them before they ever get anywhere. A healthy support group is important for any flourishing artist. I also pull photos from magazines and books and post them on my wall to give me ideas for stories. Sometimes if I’m investigating a character, I’ll find several pictures to help guide my choices for the role I’m playing. But mostly visual elements are a part of my writing, producing, directing… very rarely do I build a character from images. It feels external to me and not a process that comes from within.
I also work in ceramics. That’s a meditative part of my process and it’s creative.
What’s the most important part in the development stages of your work?
I think when you’re really clear the world responds with clarity. I say this as a person who isn’t always clear. I’ve been on both sides of this. I just recognize when I’m not clear how decisions seem to get further away. However, when I know what I want to accomplish, choices come easy. The universe responds with the same degree of clarity that you give it. So if you are consciously aware of what you want.. it’s specific.. then the universe will respond. In a way it’s magical. It’s a very cosmic thing. And it’s happened to me enough times that I can’t ignore it.
And in addition is the process of setting goals. If you haven’t had a lot of success finishing something, then set a small goal and just do it. Learn what it feels like to accomplish something and then start working your way up to bigger things. The more you practice the better you get.
A lot of creative people don’t like to set goals because they feel it limits them.
Creativity is mysterious and it’s not the same for everybody, I get that. But for me, what I need to help shape and direct my intensions comes from setting goals. The culture of artists has a romantic attachment to a certain version of creativity. Sort of like it flows when it wants to and we have no control over it. We are at it’s mercy. But that’s just not true. Setting goals is sometimes just about where your efforts go during the day. Literally where my energy goes, what are my tasks during the day, how they’re allocated. I think those things are really quite easy to structure and in the end, extremely important to getting something accomplished.
Last bit of advice?
Really know the field you are working in. Know the history and all the masters who came before you and study the people living today who are forerunners in your world. Learn what it is you really are going after. Is it just an idea of the work or do you really want to be doing it? Imagine what your ideal day would be in the career you’ve chosen and ask yourself, truly, if that’s how you want to spend your life. Write down exactly what your ideal day would be. Imagine your surroundings. How would you wake up? Would you spend it outside? In a studio? At home? In an office? Traveling? How do all these questions fit in with the career you are chasing after? Try to get as specific as you can about what you want to accomplish. Not only in your work, but in your life. And be specific.
And lastly, I’d say communication is important. Learn to communicate to people and get your ideas across. Learn how to talk to other people and learn how to listen. Listening gives you an opportunity to truly hear other people and gain an empathetic understanding of where they are coming from. It’s a very important life skill to be clear with people. In addition, it’s important to be able see all points of view so you can validate the people you collaborate with. Giving and receiving is all part of communication.
So, communication, goals and knowing what kind of day you want. Those three things are key.