"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want."I heard this quote recently, and it got me to thinking about how true it's been in my life and work. For me, it's most obvious in the trial and error phase of developing a new technique or product or working with a new material. I can go into a project with a plan, even a full-fledged vision or drawing of what I intend, but in the process, I often find it doesn't come out exactly the way I envisioned. I used to think of what came out of these attempts as failures, and would start from the beginning again. But, experience has taught me that these so-called failures are vital parts of the process. Building upon the experiences of the first attempt, the attempts which follow are usually better, though they also may be nowhere near the original vision. I've also found that in first attempts there is usually something freer, and more purely creative than in subsequent ones. I try to keep these qualities in the final, finished products.
Experience also means knowing my own creative process includes a fair amount of ruminating; thinking about the form, color, structure and function (if there is one) of a new piece, even before my hands get to sketch or sculpt or paint the actual thing. In this phase of my process, I'm even more of a sponge, picking up and storing away creative inspirations wherever I encounter them. I'm in that phase now, with many ideas careening wildly around my brain (which makes thinking about mundane things like what's for dinner kind of difficult!) which now need to come out, probably in sketch form, at first.
And, of course, there's the imponderable part of the creative process. That part, when I'm in the "zone" which I can't explain, where the clay Ancestress "becomes" who she was meant to be, where just the color combinations of paint come together, where the juxtapositions of paper, paint and clay are just right, independent of my control. It doesn't happen every time, but it happens enough that I respond to it, and welcome it when it does. Despite my natural inclination to ask why, I don't--it's the mysterious, the muse, which operates beyond the why.
Perhaps Einstein said it best: