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  • Onil Shah

The crisis - problems that arise when you are associated with creativity & my solutions.

Initially, I wanted the title to be ‘read this before entering into the creative field’ but that sounds too YouTube!

Also, I didn’t want this essay to feel like a script of any Instagram influencer. This is more about the problems I face/faced and some unorthodox ways I found a solution to them. Recently found out many of my friends, and students (who now are also friends) faced similar issues.

What follows is my attempt to gather confidence in myself to voice out my opinions.

The problems:

Most people who are associated with creativity (to be precise: associated with creating things, be it paper-based media, lens-based media, paintings, sculptures, or even a simple electrical layout of an apartment) are sitting on this strange question. Now, when I say a ‘question’, I don’t mean a particular question, it’s more like a chain of interlinked doubts.

Am I really capable of producing art?

Where do I stand in this vast ocean of arts?

Am I doing justice to my art?

It’s a different battle for someone whose family is not associated with art! E.g. If you ask your family for mental peace, they’ll be like, what is mental peace? They cannot grasp the challenges you are facing. It’s more like, in their life they haven’t dealt with a similar problem like yours so the problem is unworldly.

Then there are these specific people in your life (somewhat same age as yours) who are booming with knowledge, have pro-techniques, know all the references your professors are talking about and have almost read every book on the planet. Have seen all the movies etc. Basically, those who make u question yourself…. even deeper.

Another big problem is that there’s so much going around that even if an idea strikes you, there are high chances that you’ll discard it considering that it’s already been executed by someone else.

Something I really feared was ‘the talk’ about my work. Please don’t misinterpret this as ‘what will people say about my work’. Here ‘the talk’ means all the possible outcomes when you put forward a work of art to people. To simplify this, it’s more about what you think and wants people to say about your work rather than what people will actually say!

A cherry on the cake is when you see someone really unworthy, getting recognition & appreciation. I don’t mean to be harsh but there are some people whom you know don’t have that thing in them but still god knows why, cross the finish line first. This really pisses me off!

Despite all this drama, you have to perform at your best while creating things.

Sometimes, you feel like getting up and turning off that switch of creativity and leading a normal life which really isn’t much to ask for.

The solutions:

Ok, let’s get something very straight! These problems are not mathematical sums that have a particular way to reach a particular answer. It’s not Q1 -A1, Q2-A2, the solutions are open and generic.

Throughout my share of time in the creative field, I’ve come across some situations or experiences that helped me at least see the solutions clearly if not reach for them!

Below are those experiences and how I found my answer to one of all those questions mentioned above.

1. The Medicine.

I don’t know who named them ‘friends’ and not ‘medicines’.Many times, the crisis you are going through is actually just in your head. All you need to be shown is that problem from a different perspective.

Talking to friends is the easiest way to encounter that perspective. And don’t be surprised when your friend will say ‘I was struggling with the same problem but just didn’t bring it up. You need to surround yourself with the people you trust. And who says the family is those people who give birth to you? Your medicines can be your family with whom you can have all the artsy talks.

2. Read about the Universe.

I cannot emphasize the importance of this but TRUST ME and do yourself a favor by getting familiar with the cosmos. Not complex theories or unsolved equations, just get to know what’s there in the sky when you look up. Understand that we are a small small small piece of an immensely complicated pattern that we ourselves don’t understand.

Starts like our very own sun have a life cycle. They are born and for a matter of fact, they die and while dying they take us, humans, along too. Something which you have made as an artist and Pablo Picasso’s paintings both, one day are gonna turn into ash. So why worry about where you stand in this vast ocean of arts. Rather enjoy making and sharing art.

3. People not from the art field teach you a lot.

As pseudo-professional artists, we tend to look down upon certain less-intellectually-cultivated categories of people and discard them (admit it, you’ve done it at least once, maybe unintentionally) or maybe you straightaway discard someone because of their ego problems.

These people have some golden things to offer and it’s just hidden behind a barrier of IQ/ego/language proficiency/age/personality/etc.

Basically, interact with people by looking at them like normal human beings who are bound to make mistakes - Dear Zindagi.

Apart from this, get an idea of their problems and how they face them. E.g. Many scientists work on ONE single problem for their ENTIRE lives with an absolute uncertainty of reaching the solution. Imagine!

Talk to people with a 9-5 job and the problems they face, talk to those who do the dirty jobs, and talk to people who have an a-hole boss!

What I’m trying to point out is that all jobs have their own challenges and creativity is one of them. So it’s ok to face hurdles and creative blocks.

4. Observe children.

Here, children refer to 3-4+ year old kids.

Along with admiring the cuteness and the struggle of their parents; notice how simple their doubts are, notice how sometimes they have better solutions than you, and observe how they admire absolutely useless things as if the definition of beauty is something else for them. In short, try to observe the same world you live in through their eyes and perceive it through their brains. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from them.

Innocence often is accompanied by simplicity in both visions and thought.

Just don’t walk away if they start crying.

5. Play a sport (dedicatedly).

I play Badminton and it just helps me tremendously to cultivate and evolve as a creative. When you are playing a set, you are completely focused on the game and thinking about nothing else but the game. Previously when I didn’t play, my brain didn’t know what a state of ultimate focus feels like and during the game when the brain is at its peak attention, it felt very different, something only an athlete knows how it feels. More importantly, it was something which I hadn’t felt before!

So whenever I want to focus, say while reading or during a shoot, I try to replicate that state of mind. If I didn’t know what exactly to replicate, the brain would have many directions to go.

6. The ‘pace’

This is something that I recently found out.

We all try to rush through our ideas, get done with them, and move to the next or search for the next idea. To elaborate, there’s a set journey from the striking of an idea to developing it to cultivating it, letting it cultivate you, executing the idea, and finally letting the work evolve over the audience. Each step has its own pace and the pace is wildly different in different scenarios. Try to understand the dynamics of this machine and don’t rush through steps just because you want to get done with it. Spend time with each phase and let the idea do its magic! Maybe it’s just the beginning of an even better version of that idea.

Even while writing this article, I decided I’ll never rush to finish it though I had all the groundwork already in place and all that was left was to type. I honestly don’t remember when I started working on this article, maybe a couple of months ago but letting it work at its own pace has worked miracles for me.

Art is about opinions and to have the right opinions, you have to get the right knowledge. Opinions also need to voice out and that too with confidence.

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