Passion takes on many forms. It can be fruit, sex, artistic intensity. Good to eat, great in the bedroom, dangerously necessary in the art world. Yes, it is a dog eat dog world and a passionate artist is self-consuming, almost by definition. So, how do you not consume yourself ? How do you not destroy the drive that if you drive too much will destroy you? Moderation ? No. There is no moderation in balls-to-the-wall passion. Many artists speak of getting into a “zone” to produce their work. A place of engagement so intense that the work itself pulls us in, begins to dictate direction, depth, and complexity of subject matter. Some artists are fortunate enough to discover their zone within which they can produce, other artists never really find a creative space, and still others get totally lost in their zone and end up so deep in their own forest that they cannot see the trees!
Be very forewarned. While passion is an absolute necessity in art, out of proportion passion can be the undoing of an artist. If an artist gets to the point of totally being out of sinc with his work, if he hits that dreaded wall of “burn out”, the resulting confusion can destroy and disintegrate the creative process. One can be left in a formless mass of nothingness with no energy, no creative thoughts, no free flowing ideas, and no more love of the medium. Dissolution, disintegration, confusion, anger, a sense of abandonment can replace what was once abundant, spontaneous, and productive. A sense of total loss, like a gutted trout – if a trout could indeed be creative to begin with !
We must learn to do something before our artistic spirit, our creative drive, the engine that moves our art sputters and dies. For me, the answer lies in short term goals, working on projects within a certain time frame, short-to-medium bursts of creativity and energy. Define a challenge, give your self a time frame to explore it, produce the resulting body of work (!), then move on to another. I call this working in a “series mentality”, something I have explored my entire career. A sense of completion and/or accomplishment does something positive for the creative process. It is rewarding in a very personal way, not requiring public gratification or recognition. It strengthens the artist as a creator, a producer, a maker of something that did not exist before your involvement. Isn’t that one of the reasons that we became, or are trying to become, an artist – to make stuff, and to enjoy the process ?
To have a release other than your photography, but within the arts, will also help your longevity and your sanity. Josef Sudek said, ‘If you take photography seriously, you must also get interested in another art form.” For him, it was music and he felt that his listening to music “showed up in his work like a reflection in a mirror.”
One other suggestion to safeguard the dissolution of your artistic passion is to have another form of release that is outside of the arts completely. Use your body and relax your mind. Get out and exercise, dance, do Yoga, climb a mountain, ride a bike, take a walk, swim a mile, whatever gets that other drug into your blood and makes you feel alive ! Make your body work and relax your thinking process. Sweat a little bit and extend some energy other than what comes out of your mind. Get too tired to think once in awhile.
The bottom line is each of us must learn how to live with, control, provoke, entice, relax and then revitalize our passion without numbing our creative process at the same time. Wake up and be very aware of your feelings, monitor and learn your energy, and have an appropriate release or two that will help you maintain your creative balance and how much passion you literally extend. Learn your passion levels, do not drain yourself dry. Learn when to tread water and resuscitate a little bit, learn when you need to dive deep again, and learn when you need a new creative body of water to dive into, period. Guard, protect, and nurture your passion. Do not be controlled or defeated by it. Pay attention. Learn yourself as an artist.
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” … Nelson Mandela
“I am still hungry.” … Andre Kertesz, at age 90