Measuring growth of an acorn

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

As an artist—whether amateur, hobbyist, professional or master—growth always follows practice. But when most of that growth cannot be seen, measured or quantified, it’s easy to feel discouraged if it feels like minimal growth has taken place. Choosing only to measure your growth by likes, comments, clicks or positive feedback and you miss out on internal markers of growth such as growing confidence, having more peace when making or increased enthusiasm to practice. These are harder to quantify, but will ultimately provide you with more nourishing feedback about your growth and progress. Feelings cannot be turned into data but are far more important than a metric number of likes. Growth IS constantly occurring, in tiny micro increments over time.

Steven Pressfield in The Artist’s Journey offers “the artist has a subject, a voice, a point of view, a medium of expression, and a style… How do we find our own? In my experience the process is neither rational nor logical. It cannot be commanded. It can’t be rushed.” The process is going to take time. In the same way you cannot rush the evolution of a tree, you cannot rush your own as an artist.

Pressfield references James Hillman’s analogy to an acorn in The Soul’s Code: “The totality of the full-grown oak is contained—every leaf and every branch—already within the acorn.” You have everything you need inside your. Practice making art and over time, more of your creative tree will be revealed. This is a slow evolution, but one that rewards along the journey.

Letting go and the unknown

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

What would ‘letting go’ look like when making your art? Perhaps it looks like allowing yourself to follow a strange curiosity or interest in a subject. Allow yourself to spend time, to indulge in the process of making art (although it can be argued that the act of making art – reconnecting to yourself – is not an indulgence, but a necessity and worthwhile endeavour). Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic encourages us to “Pursue whatever fascinates you and brings you to life. Create whatever you want to create – and let it be stupendously imperfect, because it’s exceedingly likely that nobody will even notice. And that’s awesome.” It may mean choosing to ‘get it done’ or ‘good is good enough,’ and ignoring the illusive (and impossible) goal of perfection.

Letting go could mean making art in the face of your fears. Steven Pressfield in The Artist’s Journey suggests “The artist is afraid of the unknown. She’s afraid of letting go. Afraid of finding out what’s “in there.” Or “out there… This fear, I suspect, is more about finding we are greater than we think than discovering we’re lesser. What if, God help us, we actually have talent? What if we truly do possess a gift? What will we do then?”

What if we stepped out into the unknown to find out what lies beyond our reach? Discovering what lies ‘out there’ is worthy of your attention and time. For within the unknown, lies your power.