Every day I walk by that half-finished piece of rough-hewn stone, ever-looking for a shape that continues to elude me. The piece sits on its stand, for five years now, waiting. I’ve looked at it in different lights, different angles, sometimes turning it a few degrees to get another perspective, but I have yet to strike one more blow, always fearful that inspiration will never come again.
Being terrified by raw stone, a blank canvas, white drawing tablet, a empty piece of writing paper, lump of clay, or simply an unformed idea, is a necessary part of creative process. Whatever the medium, my first fear is coming up with the original idea, then wondering if I am skillful enough to fully developed the concept. Can I do this? Am I qualified? Will people laugh at my attempt? Who am I kidding? These are thoughts that go through my mind, even now after thirty years of being a full time working artist. Every time I start a new piece or go a new direction, (this article included) I must first face my old demon, doubt.
Once doubt is overcome, being patient and waiting for the right moment, then preparing to set aside the time to follow inspiration, is critical. To force that moment and try to fit creativity into my timeframe, usually ends up in disappointment. If it’s not the right time for the project, I have learned to wait and do something else. I’ll put the prospective project in my path, to keep my intention in mind, rekindle the relationship with the piece a number of times every day, ever waiting for the moment of inspiration.
I’ve walked by this particular piece of stone hundreds of times. One day, maybe the astrological signs will have lined up, maybe the sun will strike at the right angle, but suddenly the shape will scream for me to chisel it out. When inspiration strikes, like a fish on the end of a line, my job is to seize the moment and reel it in. With one arm I’ll sweep the usual clutter off my bench onto the floor or into a box, opening up physical space. I need a clean bench to chase the vision, and I don’t have time to be nice about it.
All too soon the initial shock of inspiration will have passed, then I’ll have plenty of time for the mundane; cleaning up messes, hours of filing, sanding, and polishing the creation to its finish.
In my studio there are always fifty projects at every level of completion, some getting a little attention every day, some getting nothing for months. The stone that I started this story with hasn’t felt blow from the chisel in five years, but I still trust that its moment is coming.
I’m lucky to have a combined hour of pure inspiration in a months time, but I prepare, and long for those moments when time has no meaning, when I wildly work away at something and suddenly the sun has gone down, just as suddenly it’s midnight, dawn may break and it has all felt like ten minutes.
My job is to stay vigilant with my intention to do the work, but also be patient with myself and ever watchful for those fleeting moments of inspiration.