Monday, 24. August 2015 0:37 | Author:Jay Burton
Some artists have a condition that is the opposite of writer’s block; they have so many ideas that it is difficult to choose one to work on. This causes such artists often spend much of their time going in circles trying to decide which idea to address. This, of course, can be a very frustrating problem and can lead to inaction if not complete paralysis. Uncertainty becomes the artist’s predominant mode.
The mode can continue to dominate even after an idea is selected. There is then uncertainty about the chosen topic and how to deal with it: is it too big? Is it too little? Is it too complex? Is it too simple? Is it too amorphous? Is it trivial? What media is appropriate? What structure will best serve the topic? The questions go on and the artist finds him/herself again going in circles.
What to do? My suggestion is for the artist to develop a methodology for moving from idea to art. For some this idea is intimidating and generates another set of questions. How would one go about doing such a thing? How is it possible to figure out what methodology to select? How is it possible to know if this is the right methodology? Will this make the work less than it could be? Is this even artistic?
Although it sounds almost contrary to the notion of art, the rules and methodology set out to help students write essays will also work to help the artist establish a workable approach regardless of the subject matter.
The first phase of writing, as described by The Little, Brown Handbook (Fifth Edition) is Development and is the one which offers the most useful ideas for the artist. This phase consists of four steps: Discovering, Gathering, Focusing, and Organizing.
Discovering includes two parts: (1) selecting a topic: the book suggests that the writer select something he/she cares about. This certainly works for any artist. Even though many artists care about many things, he/she can develop criteria to be used in selecting the next idea to work on. The second part of Discovering helps in this regard; that is (2) limiting the subject. Most writing texts provide numerous examples of how one might do such a thing.
Limiting the subject is perhaps the most important step in this methodology for the artist. The limits that he/she places on the idea will in many ways determine the direction of work. For example, certain limitations will eliminate certain media and certain structures; at the same time those limits will suggest other media and other structures. As these avenues become apparent, it is likely that the artist will be led in the direction of the remaining three steps: Gathering, Focusing, and Organizing, all of which are necessary for the creation of a piece of art as well as an academic paper.
Gathering consists of acknowledging purpose and assembling the pieces that will support that purpose, and finding a pattern of development, what artists might refer to as “structures.” The next step is Focusing. In writing, this means developing a thesis; in art it means essentially the same thing: refining the purpose to decide what specifically is to be said. Then finally is Organizing, bringing all the pieces together and shaping them to support that Focus.
So whenever the world of our ideas becomes too big to handle, we might consider applying this methodology. It is an approach that has allowed any number of freshmen to write acceptable papers and it can help us as well. It is not a rigid system; we will soon discover that we must adapt and modify as we develop the subject and it begins to take on an artistic life of its own.
Even though it sounds very mechanical and unartistic, this approach provides a method to move from idea to art, and it works.