One definition of art that I find useful is “a generous gift intended to change the recipient.”
From that, it follows that we are all artists, or can be.
If you don’t like “artist,” then “creator.” We each have the capacity to create things and put them into the world from a generous posture.
But what to create?
This question is both useful and dangerous. Useful, because work worth doing embodies thought and intention. Dangerous, because it contains a trap. One that I’ve fallen into many times in the last few years.
The trap is seeking only new ideas and ignoring the ideas you already have. Usually because they aren’t new to you anymore.
I’ve burned a lot of energy this way. I didn’t grok that, as Ted Orland and David Bayles wrote in Art & Fear, “the seed for your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece.”
Read that again.
As they go on to say:
The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.
Despite our wishes, none of us know which of our creations will soar, if any. So we must learn to find fulfillment, joy, energy, and value in the whole journey, rather than only at the imagined end.
This is especially true on long projects that have interminable stretches, when we’re out to sea and land is a long way off.
Making the work you want to make means setting aside these doubts so that you may see clearly what you have done, and thereby see where to go next. Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself.
Learn to find nourishment in the journey and work itself.
The work grows out of the work.