The Truth About Self, It’s a Process: Inspired by James Baldwin’s Essay “The Creative Process”

Graphite on paper, courtesy of the digital world.

Still of “The Truth About Self, It’s a Process: Inspired by James Baldwin’s Essay “The Creative Process”

The Creative Meanderings #2: Inspration and “the creative process”

 Perhaps art is the link between people and our changing lives.

A common question since the beginning of the CognEYEzant project is, “have you run out of inspiration yet?” The truth is that here, nearly halfway through the project, I am just beginning to be inspired. The reason inspiration keeps seeping in is partly because the world and people are innately fascinating, partly because the act of art fuels more art, and partly because of the creative process. 

The creative process might sound a little snooty, like something a capital A, italicized, Artist would say to explain their sporadic bouts of creating. But creative processing is much more down to earth, it comes in many different forms. In fact, I bet most people who have ventured into the world of making things: dinner, children, houses, playlists (or mixtapes, depending on when you grew up) have experienced a creative process.

While there can be many creative processes, the first I experienced, the first that I could name was simply a list, a list with an unknown source. My mom, in a loving, motherly gesture, printed this creative process list out and taped it to the wall for me. And when I laid eyes on it, I realized, with some chagrin, that I wasn’t crazy after all. 

After nearly five years of using this creative process, I knew I needed to find the source, for solace, for peace of mind. And when the frantic search concluded, director Marcus Romer’s viral tweet from 2013 was left in the settling dust. It goes like this,

  1. This is awesome  
  2. This is tricky 
  3. This is shit 
  4. I am shit 
  5. This might be ok 
  6. This is awesome

To make this creative process entirely accurate, I added a seventh step: repeat. Because there really is no end to creativity.

The inspiration for today’s piece comes from a creative process that has recently found it’s way into my life. James Baldwin, in his essay The Creative Process, wrote of the artist’s job as melding “the truth about ourselves” and “what we wish to be”. Baldwin wrote, 

“The human effort is to bring these two realities into a relationship resembling reconciliation.”

The creative challenge, that brings me so much inspiration, cannot be defined by steps or simply searching for togetherness, instead, it is change, it is embracing change. And people, as individuals, are in constant states of change. Perhaps art is the link between people and our changing lives. As Baldwin writes,

“For the truth, in spite of appearances and all our hopes, is that everything is always changing and the measure of our maturity as nations and as men is how well prepared we are to meet these changes, and further, to use them for our health.”

In my experience, focusing on the steps of the creative process, learning to embrace and prepare for change, make it almost impossible to run out of inspiration: because there will always be a shift to look forward to, because I think change is one of the most inspiring things. 

Creative prompt: Apply the creative processes to your life 

  1. What is something you make, or a process you experience regularly?
  2. Apply the creative process steps to this aspect to your life.
  3. How has your perspective on the task changed?
  4. Share your discovery. If you share via Instagram or other social media sites use the hashtag #cogneyezant.