Every creative experiences the ebb and flow of artistic ambition. Whatever your creative expression is, you feel the phenomenon. One day you’ve got it—enthusiasm bubbles over and your art form flows. Then the unexpected happens. The desire, chutzpah, passion, or however you describe artistic ambition, evaporates until the once flowing stream becomes a dry riverbed. You find yourself struggling to paint or to write or to sculpt. Artistic ambition is different from inspiration. Ideas may flow but we need ambition to bring those ideas to fruition. So when artistic ambition ebbs, we often doubt our creativity.
As a writer and artist, I’ve experienced the ebb and flow of artistic ambition many times over my lifetime. For example, I once enjoyed a prolific writing season, the fruit of which created a book and website by the same name: Refrain from the Identical. Journals from that period line several file folder drawers. Then the loss of artistic ambition occurred and the words stopped flowing so readily. In fact, a once solid habit of daily writing receded into an occasional trickle.
The same happens intermittently in my painting life. A rush of inspiration floods and ideas flow. The next portrait shimmers in my mind. I dive into the project and ride the currents of creativity all the way up to the first dam where waters pool deep. I don’t know how to progress when I hit this impasse. In fact, inspiration tossed into the still waters merely distort my vision of what she should become instead of helping me to finishing the portrait:
- Should I add hair to soften her appearance?
- Do I sacrifice the white space around her face to add a dangling earring?
- Are her eyebrows unruly enough?
Yet even though I ask the questions, the answers do not readily appear. My current painting, The Burden Bearer, stares back at me from the art easel. She seems a person of sorts well on her way to becoming and yet not what the painting possible if my skills were more matured.
Then reasoning resounds: She reflects her namesake—a person who carries the burdens of others through prayers, through encouragements and through services. A person steady in helping but often confused about the right ways to help. A person in process but still unfinished.
She also reflects me: an artist in process—someone who has come a long way but is far from finished. A creative eclectic who waits for heavenly rain to swell this sullen stage until artistic ambition overflows the dam and the painting progresses down stream.
She reflects you: a creative soul in need of some encouragement to continue. She reflects someone who languishes in a writer’s block or an artistic dry spell.
This strange process of artistic ambition, which ebbs and flows in our creative lives, can tantalize our souls one moment and torture us the next. But even though the droughts will come, let’s not give up and put down our pens and paintbrushes for good. Let’s persist. Let’s press on. Let’s wait for God to bring the rain. For I can assure you that He is proud of us when we push through!