Out came a few bottles of pen ink, some random paintbrushes I found, and printer paper. No fancy supplies, just what I had laying around. I got to work on some…art?
I was in a complete slump on this day. I couldn’t think of much to write. None of my design work was turning out very well. Frustrating. I’d spent all day at my laptop laboring away, hoping that more time staring at my screen would bring me inspiration and clarity.
But once I removed the screen from between me and my work, everything changed.
I’m a shitty painter by all measures. None of this ‘art’ had much direction. I painted a pig(?), some crosshatch lines, some topographic patterns, the Eiffel Tower, and other things I can’t describe. All of this mindless painting got my mind right. I was no longer staring at a screen with buttons as my primary tool—my body itself was responsible for the work, which removed all the barriers that “thinking” can become. Not to mention, the product was immediate. No piece of glass and metal in between me and my creation.
I originally heard this advice from Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist. If you haven’t read it, you need to—it’s brilliant. His take on this is that creativity isn’t a purely mental exercise, as much as it often appears to be.
“Work that only comes from the head isn’t any good. Watch a great musician play a show. Watch a great leader give a speech. You’ll see what I mean. You need to find a way to bring your body into your work.” (Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist)