In the Art of Thought (1926), Graham Wallas outlines four stages of the creative process:
Preparation – Incubation – Illumination – Verification.
As my work has developed over the years to be much more conceptually solid, so I find that I have greater and greater faith in this process.
I remember the first time I was aware that it happened this way (though with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that my thinking has always gone through this process) The nebulous ideas that had been battling away in my head clicked together, so perfectly and suddenly that after the initial elation of finding “the answer”, I spent the next few days lambasting myself for being too stupid to see it before!
Now I trust the process – it can be difficult sometimes to just ruminate but it cannot be forced:
“If we so define the Illumination stage as to restrict it to this instantaneous “flash,” it is obvious that we cannot influence it by a direct effort of will; because we can only bring our will to bear upon psychological events which last for an appreciable time. On the other hand, the final “flash,” or “click” … is the culmination of a successful train of association, which may have lasted for an appreciable time, and which has probably been preceded by a series of tentative and unsuccessful trains. The series of unsuccessful trains of association may last for periods varying from a few seconds to several hours.
Sometimes the successful train seems to consist of a single leap of association, or of successive leaps which are so rapid as to be almost instantaneous.”
I find that now I have to run several projects concurrently, each at different stages, so that I can allow myself time to incubate one idea while working on another – that’s the satisfying thing about my practice. At it’s core is a craft process, a physical, material making that I can slip into without much effort (the ever delicious state of flow).
So I’ve had a few things floating about in my head for several months; the hexadecimal patterns of Blackwork, using the patterns as a data display and compression system, repeating patterns in music and data, the recording of process of making…
My moment of illumination occurred at 9.45pm last night as I was pouring drinks at my bar job.
Today I’ve been furiously scribbling things down – I have an idea for a new performance.