Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that helps people and organizations “generate brilliant ideas.” In his book about developing a voice, LOUDER THAN WORDS: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, he recounts a piece of advice that artist/illustrator Lisa Congden received from her art teacher.
The teacher told Lisa that the thing to remember is that every creative project (no matter what it is) has a U-shape. You start with a clear plan and great enthusiasm. As you work on the project, your natural energy starts fading. Things that seemed so very simple at the top of that U when you began the thing prove to be complex and unclear and the way gets very boggy as the mist rolls in. Nothing is as straightforward as it first seemed. At this point, people often lose heart and give up.
But, he said, if you keep slogging on through the deepest muck at the bottom of that U, then your heart starts to fill up again, your passion revives, you start seeing the patterns of this thing and the fog clears. You find the path opens up again and your energy will return – sometimes stronger than ever. When this happens, he said, the resulting work is usually far better than ever seemed possible at the bottom of that U.
For this reason, Henry says, you need to be guided by a larger vision for your work. Your job (as you slog through the Valley of Despond) is to keep your end-goal in sight, even when your view of it is blocked by frustration and complications.
The antidote for the part when you’re running on fumes at the bottom of the valley is to remain focused on your vision and to keep on taking the next step, then the next one and then the one after that. You keep going until you get through the downer place.
As Henry says, “There will be peaks upon which everything seems so clear and your work is so on target that you want to share it with everyone you meet, and there will be valleys in which you question why you’re even trying. It’s all part of the process, and it’s never ending….”
AND LIFE GOES ON….
And life goes on…
Whatever is happening
Does a slow and stately dance,
Flowing like dark molasses, heavy and dense,
Or else it tumbles like some hip-hopping crew
Zit-zack-zuck, whizzing by,
All the many, many parts
Zooming, on the fly.
Me, I’m just one little bit –
A ‘one’, a ‘zero’, a spectator, really –
Trying (in my way) to see
The whole meshugennah thang,
Trying to go for the grace,
Looking for the beauty,
And helping other people play.
I can just do little things:
Lend a hand when I can,
Do the small move that evokes a quiet smile,
Turn on the teeny maglight
And shine it on the path,
Turn one small key that opens one more little lock.
And I’ve been thinking…
Maybe that can be a cool thing.
by Netta Kanoho
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