Thursday, March 10, 2011
This is about a painful subject...artistic slumps. Of course artists aren't the only people who have slumps. Baseball people (above) get them all the time. The TV camera goes in tight on the players and you see looks of fear that are positively chilling. The players can't hide what amounts to a dread of the supernatural. They wonder if this is the day that a slump will drift in like a dark cloud and cling to them, maybe forever. It's scary. I know how they feel because I'm experiencing an artistic slump right now, and its driving me nuts.
I have a guess about what causes slumps, but it's only a guess. It has to do with relying too much on intuition.
You spend the first part of your career learning things and applying them. You imitate your heroes and by comparing your work to theirs you have a pretty good way of gauging your progress. You have slumps in this period, but they never last long. Generally your progress graphs up and up.
The problem comes when you decide to turbo charge that progress and move to a more intuitive mode. This is especially true if you feel you have it in you to be a stylist. In that case you'll find yourself spending more and more of your time listening to your internal voices. Learning more rules takes second place. At this stage you're keen to hone your intuition...you're trying to get into what sports people call a "zone."
This is a fascinating process. Most people do their best work at this stage. It's a time when the rules are still fresh in your mind, but you're on a path of self-discovery and uniqueness and each day seems to take you farther down the road. You begin to customize the assignments you get. You skewer them to the direction you feel you need to go in order to grow, and your work improves dramatically (it helps to have a sympathetic employer when you're doing this).
The problem with handling things intuitively, is that you become more vulnerable to slumps. Using intuition rather than rules means that you're vulnerable to every mood swing and impulse that takes hold of your brain. You do your best work in this mode, but the frightening possibility exists that you may also do your worst.
Geez, there's a lot more to say on this subject, and I've already reached my word limit. I don't really know how to end an existing slump, but I have some thoughts about how they might be avoided. I'll pick this up again later on.
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 12:42 AM