When I paint, when I write or when I get stuck, I ask a leading question. Where do I go from here? What would my protagonist do or say in this circumstance? Where does this poem want to go? Or what color wants to come onto the canvas? Which line or mark can move this piece forward? What if…I do this or try that? Then what? For it isn’t always flow, but sometimes a stumbling step, then another tripping step and then a fumbling move forward. Even a dreaded mistake can take you to the next level. It’s all part of it…this grand, unpredictable creative process.
As a beginning painter, my desire was often greater than my ability. What did I do with that? I continued the questioning. And sometimes, I took a brush and black paint in frustration and swirled lines across my painting in process. Frequently, to my surprise, something new emerged from which I could move forward.
Basically, you become CONVERSATIONAL with whatever you’re doing–writing or painting.
Life itself is really about “I wonder what is next?” Because as much as we think we’re in familiar territory, we don’t know what the next moment might bring. It is about fully trusting the unfolding creative process.
It also helps to see what you are doing as practice. You cannot know what you don’t know. Through questioning, you remain open to discovery. The faces that I drew and painted two years ago laid the platform for the faces that I draw and paint today. I had to begin somewhere and to be patient with my development as an artist. I spent time with faces. Today, I actually enjoy the challenge of drawing a three-quarter turned face. I steeped myself in images of three-quarter turned faces–eyes, noses and lips in that profile position. I memorized them, traced them, tore them from magazines, drew them, made tons of wonky faces. And I learned from my mistakes. I often asked, “What happens if I do this?” These very words imply trial and error…and successes too. And, I’m not there yet!
Revisit a work in progress that has been stalled (writing, painting, drawing) and begin a conversation with it. Ask leading questions and respect the response(s) that you get. Allow the uncertainty and take the faltering steps as you move your work along. Allot yourself a sufficient amount of time with this and see how leading questions work for you.