Many moons ago, I was an art student. I had a studio on campus and a wall where I pinned up countless bits of inspiration. These were the days before Pinterest (and the internet, oh my God did I just say that out loud?). I had a real-live wall with real-live papers, quotes, pictures and do-dads tacked up on what was probably a five-foot by 10 foot space. I loved looking at the wall-I can still see it in my head now, twenty-odd years later. I would sit at my desk, tapping those drawing pencils on it’s surface, trying to drum up inspiration from all those gorgeous, funny and interesting visuals were swirling right in front of me.
I also had a sketchbook. Many, actually. And they were filled with doodles, ideas, and one-liner thoughts. It was a book of beginnings. On each page, little seeds of ideas…which one would grow into something big and strong and beautiful? Which one would wither and sink back into the pages? I think I may have one or two of those sketchbooks up in my attic now. Hard to throw out “thoughts”, isn’t it?
We had studio classes where, each week, we would present our ideas and sketches to other students. Those ideas then became targets. Big, big targets. The other students would ask seemingly endless questions, which would then either render this idea stronger or leave it to dissolve into the ether. You had to stand up there in front of everyone, defending your good idea or at least, trying to make your bad idea seem good.
Sugar-coating of critiques was not encouraged, as it mucked up the distillation process. I remember being probably a little too cut-and-dry with this process. The classes were long enough (six hours)…if we sugar-coated every question we asked, we’d be there forever. Forget that. Just ask the questions, let’s leave feelings out of this. We were trying to get to the heart of the project. Would it work? Was it worth pursuing? What was working, what wasn’t working? Let’s keep this in black-and-white, please. No hard feelings.
Chipping away, chipping away, talking for hours on end, with the hopes of moving a project forward.
Those sketchbooks were invaluable, as was my inspiration board, or any paper that I happened to doodle an idea upon. I see the particular merit of those studio classes now, painful as they were to sit through all those years ago. To bounce an idea off another brain (or twelve) is the best way to advance a thought. One brain is not enough…how can someone be expected to solve some things all by themselves? You have to take the ideas OUT of your head and shuffle them in another space. Give them over to others. It gets too clogged up there. Bounce them around and out. Render the ideas helpless and pound them into submission. Talk yourself (and others) into oblivion. And whatever you do, don’t forget about The Gut, the hardest one of all to read or convince. There’s no convincing The Gut, for The Gut Always Knows. And knows everything miles before you do, that smart little bugger. It’s your job to catch up to it, read it and mercy, mercy….listen to it, for pete’s sake.
The Ahhhh in the Ah-Ha moment will eventually appear.