⟡ Creative motivations ⟡

Knowing what authentically nourishes the heart of your practice

Today I expand on the topic of “why” from my last post, in the context of what motivates art making, and discerning what is nourishing to the path of growth and what maybe isn’t.

Knowing what my true whys are connects me to the heart of my painting practice. However, if I am not careful, superficial motivations can sweep me away from my core inspirations.

For example, say I open up a certain social media app. The incomprehensibly vast amount of content begins triggering sensory excitement and dopamine. That sounds fun until you consider the dark side, which is a hugely disorienting effect on the mind. As the scrolling continues, I see how easy it is to become influenced by curated performances of reality. By engaging in the illusions, I too become a performer, as I slip into the weavings of selective narrative-crafting. This can feel very confusing. The more I study my reactions to social media, the more I can say for certain that engaging in it skews my perception and ultimately takes me further away from my authentic self.

When I am far away from myself, I lose sight of the kind of true inspiration that motivates me from a centered space. I might instead start to get carried away by things I am tricked into wanting. I might get confused about what really inspires me, or what inspiration even means. I lose sight of what ideas are mine and what ideas are impressions from the content. Before I even know it, my real ‘whys’ start getting clouded and weak. Trying to stay connected to true creative source in a state like this starts to feel like looking into one of those funhouse mirrors and still trying to see my correct proportions.

I won’t get too carried away with an anti-social media protest that only leaves me with a negative residue in my mouth. Instead, I offer an officially passionate stance of: See It Clearly For What It Is And Proceed With Caution From There.

The central reflection is that without steadiness in my ability to be a strong observer of my patterns, I can admittedly become influenced by delusional forms of motivation. And that right there is just one reason for cultivating strength and clarity through various types of self-awareness practices.

How to differentiate motivations that nourish your practice from ones that don’t?

The key is honest noticing. I might notice feelings of motivation triggered by a desire to be seen as relevant, cool, accomplished or prolific. Or a desire to fit in, prove myself, get attention, keep up, achieve success, or gain validation.

When I start to notice that I am motivated by desire for anything material and ego-boosting is when I know I’ve lost sight of my true whys. Noticing is the first step in breaking the delusion spell. It’s easier to find the light again when you can see what is obstructing it.

This is when I can take an active role in getting back on my creative path by doing anything I know that will help me regain contact with what feels true. Because that is where the real magic in the art-making comes from.

Having a creative practice that is motivated by my inner curiosities feels more life-giving than being motivated by material goals.

This is not to say that money and material things do not have value in relationship with your art making. Artists should be supported for their work. However, in this moment I am not exclusively talking about artists and I am not exclusively talking about work. I am talking about humans as beings and I am talking about practice. I want my practice to fuel my work, and not the other way around. My next post will be about the parts of practice that are sacred, only for yourself, and ways to practice with less pressure.

For now, let’s go one step further into a tangible tool for how to tell the difference between material motivations and those that feel true and fulfilling. To tease it out, I like to ask myself this question when I feel motivated to create something:

“Does this spark of motivation feel like a need to serve my ego, or does it feel like a need to serve my deeper curiosities?”

So, who is it for? The ego or the spirit? This question is a good way to test if my creative motivations are actually creative.

If you notice a form of material motivation propelling you into action, you don’t even have to stop what you’re doing. Just stay in it. Just go through the motions. Ask and notice. Feel what it feels like. Observe the results.

For example, when I sense a motivation that might exist to serve the ego, it feels urgent, impulsive, competitive, anxious and usually results in negative emotions and results I am not super happy with. Sometimes I just have to go through this experience as a reminder. On the contrary, when I sense a motivation that ignites my deeper curiosities, it feels careful, positive, open, non-attached, joyous and aligned with my own energy, with nothing to prove or grasp for. This often results in pleasant outcomes.

Let your patterns become your teachers.

It’s important to see it all with self-compassion. Observe the nature of being a human and examine it with curiosity. Even if you have a strong will, well-conditioned patterns can still find ways to weasel through the consciousness like how water will find its way through even the tightest cracks. Collect the drops. Thank them. Study them.

Every time you notice is an opportunity to be grateful for self-awareness.

♡ Keep practicing ♡