On Never Getting Another Good Idea

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Newest Underground Insider, Kitty Boyce pontificates on losing your creative juice, providing tips to keep it flowing.

If at any point you begin to feel impotent, dried up, run ragged, or otherwise uninspired, know that it has nothing to do with your volume of output. We are all capable of more output than we can conceive of; it is in fact a potentially infinite amount, nobody’s found a collective ceiling to it. Inspiration is the number one source of motivation. Remember that all-nighter blowout; that double-ended Roman candle that seems to produce its own kerosene?  If hearing this only makes you wince, you’re not alone. Secretly you might even be tortured by how burnt out you feel after an embarrassingly small amount of hustle. Don’t be ashamed. You’re simply not getting enough creative in-put.

The second and equally invaluable side of self-improvement, aside from keeping up on your skills and knowledge, is creative input. The worst mistake I’ve made as an artist (or seen anyone else make) by far was going for any length of time without roots. It’s like sailing without a rudder.

I got rubber-stamped into art school dogmas in college and came out the other end aimless and hungry for a financial pat on the head as my highest form of praise. Two hit-and-miss years later I had an epiphany, realizing I’d frozen in time simply because I forgot to be me and pick a new goal for myself after college. I floundered around some more, wondering which goal I should go after…a deer in the headlights of my own ambitions! Then I was struck (again) with the foolishness of the question.

As artists, we hardly ever do what we should do, we do what we must.

You already know to keep up with technology, your medium, your audience and your contemporaries. But it’s equally imperative to keep up with your own tastes and passions! What makes your work unique, and what informs it the most, is the stuff you’re crazy about. Fishing, ukulele, your heroes. Remember who brought you to the party and go home with them at the end of the day. Every day! How else are you going to get yourself out of bed tomorrow?

What drives you harder than anything else? What pushes you late into the a.m. gnashing your teeth and weeping, knowing after the storm has settled you’ll swear you’d do it all again? Definitely do that. What got you into this crazy mess in the first place? Find it. Find your muse, and you find the mirror that reflects the very essence of you that gives your art life, power and authenticity. I actually have a corkboard over my workstation that I disassemble each week or between projects, whichever comes sooner. I cover it in relevant postcards and clippings, anything a thumbtack will hold up. I also have a rotating gallery of general inspiration on my fridge.

In basic painting class, our teacher Bob Kato had us bring in one inspirational object—not necessarily art—to line up around the room. In the first fifteen minutes of each day, we’d tour our improvised salon of photos, action figures, leaves, homework, books, videos, albums, poetry, love letters, stuffed animals. Then we’d get to work.

That restlessness you feel, the frustration, the circles of logic or error you keep forcing yourself through, all of these can be attributed to the vacuum of inspiration. Writer’s block. Illustrator’s Block. Musician’s Block. It’s not actually anything in your way. It’s the lack of fuel to push you forward. I find the most potent combination is a blend of personal history and fresh vistas. It’s not enough to go to a friend’s new show, read a book or watch a movie. I also must dig through my closet and find something I forgot. Last week it was a pair of heels. I wore them all day doing chores. I felt like a million bucks and went on to sketch a bunch of pinups. This week I looked up an old family friend and we had coffee. Then I wrote this blog! Old and new. Past plus future equals present. That’s your recipe for success. Or at least your remedy for the impending fear of failure. Try it.

Stay hungry. Stay Well-fed.

Kitty Boyce

 

Kitty B. is on her third or fourth creative incarnation, from Subway sandwich artist to freelance illustrator, and finally writer. Her hobbies include quoting herself and paraphrasing others. She may be found bagging groceries, sassing strangers or muralizing outrageously upscale homes. Currently she takes lots of selfies and plays good cop to C.R. Cohen’s tough-lovin’ bad cop.

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