When I get excited about a new project, I feel it in my guts. Deep in my guts. A romantic sort of excitement that burns brightly and if I sleep on it, by the morning all that’s left is a glow. The glow is a better test of the worth of an idea than the height of the romantic rush, but that’s probably true of most love; the romance is bright, heady, and narcotic but we weren’t meant to live on that stuff alone. The romance is there to pique our interest, titillate us and keep us around long enough for the love to mature into something of substance.
I’m thinking of flowers now. Fragrant to fill the shopping centre but the florist can’t tell you if they smell. She’s dead to their romance. The floral porn of gerberas is lost on the guy at the market as he drags a bunch from a bucket and shakes the water off them.
We all do it; fall head over heels for new ideas. Some of those new ideas are meant to live alone. Some of those ideas don’t have any desire to settle down and when you introduce them to your parents they seem awkward. Suddenly you’re asking yourself what you saw in them in the first place.
Sometimes I like to knock the romance out of a new idea. Take it bush for a weekend and see if it will survive the rigours of a long-term relationship. See if I can fart in its company. See if it loves me with bed hair and cheesy feet.
Every one of my big ideas has had its dark night of the soul. At some stage, if our worlds are held together long enough—the luscious world of the imaginary and the hard dry world of form—we’re bound to get on each other’s nerves. In the beginning, the dark night represented a bleak and scary time for me. The romance was gone and my inner critic could only see the shit things about the art we were creating. The doubts crept in and I felt like taking off this stupid ring/pen, slamming it on the desk storming out of the office and never coming back.
But if you’ve ever really been in love with an idea and tried to coax it into the world then you’ll know about this crisis of faith. You’d be familiar with the sharp-tongued turns of phrase your inner critic uses. Your confidence pales, you slide, and then, in a sub-conscious bulb-flash, you realise you’ve been here before and that the friction is really a good sign. It’s the pain of final labour. It’s coming to the end and the challenge (as always) is to ignore the bickering and just go about making breakfast for the thing, buying it flowers and sitting still and close with it until the warmth comes back and you can smile at each other again and get on with the job.
The thing that separates a practicing artist from a dreamer is the crisis of faith and what she does with it. Nothing that’s forced can ever be right, if it doesn’t come naturally, leave it. And the counter to that is the thought that anything worth anything is worth the work. The good things in the world have been forged at the place between those ideas. Artistic action is only possible while those things are in inertia.