Creative Negative Space | Giving Yourself Permission to Create
Sophia...this one’s for you.
My first was the most primitive of entities; something so complicated and yet so ineffective it took three people to operate. First I’d write - in a separate Word document - the week’s ‘article’, which amounted to ramblings of the existential yet elementary kind, unedited and grammatically unsound, but nonetheless impassioned. I’d then email that off to my dad, who in turn sent it off to a coworker that'd built the blog herself, and finally she’d post it for me. If I wanted a photo on the post, I’d have to attach and send the photo along as well, and trust her formatting choices. Then I'd wait a few days, maybe a week, to see the final result.
My second blog was a collection of interviews I conducted, wrote up, and edited myself. I added photos and graphics, and posted them weekly on a site I called TheGlamourWire, made on Wordpress. This venture was a bit more successful; my interviewees were interesting (fashion people and artists of varying types in the Seattle area) and my reach was easy. The subjects had their own built-in audiences. Seattle is an artist’s heaven. They embraced me. The Seattle Times starting publishing my interviews. All in all, I call it a success.
I then dabbled with not one, not two, but three more concepts, often building out the entire site and posting a few articles or essays only to scrap the entire thing. And while the next site after all that dabbling, (a site called HerAfter which maybe the very reason you found me here), was my most successful, it wasn’t more important than the experimental dabbles. Success isn't what today's article is about.
This is about the void; the black space; the artistic nothingness wherein you know you need to create - you might not even be able to live much longer without creating - and yet you lack the knowledge of what. What to make, or more importantly: why. I won’t even get into the who it all ("who am I to be doing this?") because if you’re an artist you probably already ask yourself that question daily, if not hourly.
This is about the blankness. The area in an artist’s evolution I lovingly call: Creative Negative Space.
I can say with some confidence that this space usually hold more than an average share of doubt and fear. Not knowing what to create and knowing you must is like sitting the driver's seat and not knowing how to drive a manual transmission. It puts a person in a sort of...bind...shall we say. A kind of damned-if-you-do trap. You must try, and yet you know you're attempts will be rubbish.
Yet this is an essential step in your evolution to whatever major endeavor or project the universe has in store for you. So the most important thing to keep in mind is that during this phase, whatever you create will fall short of both your expectations and your desires. That disappointment matters; it will push you. It will be the limb you carve out of clay that just doesn’t look good enough, thus inspiring you to start over from the beginning.
In conjunction, this phase is vital because it offers you permission you to freely and drunkenly explore whatever artistic means you have within you. It’s a free space, an open room to do with what you will, fancy free, while you pinpoint exactly what it is you’re meant for. If it were sex, it would be the post-pubescent phase when you’re still so scared of it and yet so drawn and enthralled by it, only just learning what it is that really turns you on.
The reason I call it ‘negative’ space is not because of an inherent evil or badness, but instead simply it’s lack of an audience. Whatever you create has the ability to go back into nothingness from whence it came, if you so choose. Maybe what you create goes straight into the trash and you never tell another soul. Maybe you post it on your blog for one day and take it down immediately. It’s not important who sees it or what black hole swallows it; it matters that you went willingly into the practice of making it, playfully and experimentally. Openly. Honestly. Liberated from fear of judgment or worthiness. With a true willingness to see what’s in there and what wants to be made.
In other words, that you let whatever is inside you finally come out, however ugly that something might be at the beginning, however untamed; you let it come out to play for a while.
For me that meant a total of three blogs that never really saw the light of day, that I never really talked about, and that I spent a combined six months just playing with, feeling out, trying on, and finally scrapping completely. But it’s still vital that I went through each of them. They are arguably more important than the blogs and articles and freelance gigs that followed, because of the growth and self knowledge that came of them.
For you that might mean lighting a few candles, climbing in the bath, and letting your imagination run wild of photos, place, or people you’d love to see through your camera lens. It might mean buying a set of pastels and a pad (like from this incredible local art store in DTLA I frequent) and beginning with just a few very rough, very primitive sketches of the human form. Or it might mean starting a blog, buying a guitar, or heading out with just your phone to record videos of...well...whatever. Be it the privacy of your phone’s storage center or the confines of a website you tell absolutely no one about, give yourself the divine gift of space to create, and negative; that is, absent and void of all judgment, criticism, and expectation.
So while, yes, I still get a bigger kick from seeing my name on a major website or getting a nod from the Cancer Survivor’s Day team quoting my own words back to me (what!?), I still honor the blank phases. The creative negative space. In so many ways, this blog is exactly that; a chance for you to see exactly what it is I’m naturally called to create, without theme or commercial parameters. I hope you’ll honor and see it for exactly that, and carve out the same negative space for yourself.
What areas of my life are calling for more curiosity, openness, playfulness and creative exploration?
What negative space, physically or metaphorically, can I create for my self that can be safe, judgment free and solely for me?
Am I able to let go of expectations surrounding success, accolades and respect
and offer myself the freedom to create with honesty?