Art And Practice As Change

Change is inevitable. It's all around us. The nature of the whole Universe is that of change. As artists, we sometimes shy away from change, preferring to remain in the comfort of where we are. I know that I have a great tendency to resist change. I find things I like and I want them to always be there. Like food. 

I go to specific restaurants to order my favorite dish that the restaurants offer. A place may have 100 items on their menu, but I always order the same thing every time, because it's my favorite. Then one day the menu changes and my favorite dish is gone. This throws me completely off. I've even stopped going to some places because they don't have my favorite dish anymore, which was the reason to go there in the first place.

And this same type of thing can happen in our art. We find a rhythm, a groove, a comfortable place and want to remain there, creating the same thing over and over. But how many times can we paint the same picture, write the same story, or compose the same song? As time goes on, the initial good feeling we got from the original diminishes, as we try to recapture it again and again.

'Four Seasons' by WhiteSpiritWolf

Our art can stagnate. As much as we want to continue something, the nature of things is for it to change, for us to move on to something else. From my own life, I know that it's impossible to recreate a previous experiences. Oh, I can get close, but it's not really the same. And it doesn't help that memory is often imperfect, especially when clouded by emotion. So experiences that you feel were one way, may have actually been different when they happened.

A wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition. - Merriam-Webster

Nostalgia is built on feelings, happy memories of something we once knew, once experienced. And we long to know and experience them again. But the thing is, no matter how hard we try, we can never recreate a past event. Things will always be different. And as an artist, nostalgia can lead to stagnation, and ultimately, frustration.

Insight into change teaches us to embrace our experiences without clinging to them — to get the most out of them in the present moment by fully appreciating their intensity, in full knowledge that we will soon have to let them go to embrace whatever comes next. 
Insight into change teaches us hope. Because change is built into the nature of things, nothing is inherently fixed, not even our own identity. No matter how bad the situation, anything is possible. We can do whatever we want to do, create whatever world we want to live in, and become whatever we want to be. - 
Thanissaro Bhikkhu, All About Change
Clinging to the past keeps us not only from having a future, but more importantly, from living in the present. And as creative individuals, the present is where we want to be, because that is where creation happens. Not in the future, not in the past, but in the present.

Exercises for Change:

1) Objectively look at your work. Are you caught in a rut, a loop, a yearning to re-experience past feelings?

2) Look at change not as taking away from our past, but as bringing us into the present.

3) Focus on what you can do now. Trust your instincts/creativity and follow it, looking at change as a partner in your work.


Embrace Change

~ MB


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