The Ebb

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the process of artistic creation fascinates me. There’s an aspect of ebb and flow to it that feels like a natural rhythm. The act of creating a piece of Art is much like the action of the tide. There’s the momentum of surf rushing onto the shore. The Flow. It’s full of energy and direction. The water follows as a force that comes from the ocean depths.

Then there’s the action of the water receding as it’s pulled back into the sea. The Ebb. The rush forward is more visible and more memorable, but the rush back has it’s own significance and challenges.

It has been my experience that the Flow occurs in those moments where time and thought recedes and you are in the slipstream of inspiration. All of your artistic training facilitates the forward push of the tide. The Flow is sweeter because you can accomplish what you wish without static.

The Ebb occurs when you shift out of that focus. It’s when you sit back and look at what you’ve made so far. It’s where you assess progress and plan your next steps. It’s also where you get pushed out of the Flow because you have poor technique or crappy materials.

I have never received advice or training on how to deal with the Ebb. Perhaps it’s singular and individual since it’s based on your own coping mechanisms and mental state. In my experience though, the Ebb is the place where the artist really hamstrings herself. This is where I drown myself in judgement. It’s the period of time when my cynical mind starts yammering on about ‘sale-ability’ and how inept or useless the whole endeavour is.

When the Ebb comes you are bereft of your muse. Without understanding the process as a tide however, each time it happens, you forget that the Flow will come once again.

This has often been my problem. I go through a prolific period of Flow and then one day there’s nothing there and I can feel the absence of inspiration and I think, “Well I guess I’m done forever.” What follows next is a desperate and predictable decline.

The self-recrimination that can spring out of the Ebb, can be crippling and actually defer the coming of the next surge. Deep in the Ebb, I think that that period of absence is actually who I am. In that headspace, I think that the inspiration is a Muse who has long left because I failed to be a suitable medium. This is not helpful. That kind of thinking means that I take months and sometimes years to do things that should take far less time.

The Flow is always going to come again. Whether it’s a week from now or two years from now – it’s a cycle and it will come again. Presence and Absence. Knowledge and then Doubt. I hamper my own progress by getting bogged down in a miasma of bullshit. I get down and out and miss the swell. This is what mismanaging the Ebb can do.

It’s important to remember that for the creative individual, the next Flow is inevitable. It will always come – so it’s important to spend your Ebb in productive reflection and spend it learning skills that will aid you when the next surge inevitably comes.

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