Let Your Art Teach You How To Make It


Trying to complete a project requires nearly infinite factors, with so much swirling around your environment and in your head. But there is one huge influence on our project that too many of us ignore — the project itself.

As the author Salman Rushdie once said, you have to let a book teach you how to write it. And that is true for all art. A project is like a child. In an ideal world, you would teach the child everything you know and mold them into exactly the kind of person you envisioned. But children don’t work like that. Sooner than later (usually sooner) you realize that the child has a mind of its own and you have to learn how to raise them on their own terms.

You can’t force a child to grow up a certain way, and when you begin a project you can’t demand it bend to all of your whims. Instead you have to be in tune with the kind of project it wants to be. Maybe this sounds like a bunch of pretentious drivel to you, but even the smallest idea has an ideal form when it’s all fleshed out. And the job of an artist is to listen and figure out how to turn that into a reality.

This requires honesty and compromise. Honesty to admit to yourself that the project works only in a certain way no matter how much you may want it to be another way; and compromise because this will require some sacrifices that, during the process, may feel absolutely brutal. You won’t want to do all of them, and in the moment it may not seem worth it, but you may not want your kid to dye their hair purple, either — in the back of your mind, though, you know it’s better to let it happen.

You may find yourself with a project on your hands right now that is unrecognizable from the project you dreamed of. It happens to every artist — you never know what will fall into your lap. But no matter what you expected, if you help it to be what it wants, in the end you will be proud of what you created.

Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.