All art is a reaction to the first line drawn. Unless the artist sits in front of the canvas and paints, there can be no art. Unless the writer sits down and starts to type, there can be no book. Unless the musician plays their instrument, there can be no music. Unless the sculptor begins to chip away at the marble, there can be no sculpture. Unless the explorer begins the journey, there can be no discovery. It is the same with everything in life, even civilizations; unless one acts, nothing is created or discovered.
In the classical world of Greece and Rome and in all earlier times, civilization could exist only in warm climates where horses could stay alive through the winter by grazing. Without grass in winter, you could not have horses, and without horses, you could not have urban civilization. Most people accepted this as a law of nature, which to them meant humans were destined to live in warm climates.
Sometime during the so-called dark ages, some unknown genius took action. He invented hay which was a way to bring food to the horses instead of bringing horses to the food. Forests were turned into meadows, hay was reaped and stored, and civilization moved north over the Alps. So hay gave birth to Vienna and Paris and London and Berlin, and later to Moscow and New York. Unless this unknown genius had acted and invented hay, civilization would not have prospered.
What you think or believe is of no consequence. The only consequence is what you do. If you are hungry, to satisfy your hunger you must take some kind of action. You have to make something to eat or go to a restaurant. You cannot just sit there and expect your hunger to disappear. In order to have a chair, you have to go to the furniture store and buy one or go down to your workshop and make one. You cannot simply wish to have a chair. You have to take some kind of action. Similarly, you cannot wish to be creative. You have to act.
THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Take out a sheet of paper and at least ten items, money, credit cards, keys, coins, etc. Create an assemblage by using the following guidelines:
In your mind, imagine an assemblage that metaphorically represents you. Do not think about the materials you have in hand. Instead think about the shape you would like your assemblage to have. What are the rhythms you want? The texture? Where would you want it to be active? Passive? Where do things overlap and where are they isolated? Think in general and overall pictures, and leave out the details. Do not think about great art; just think about who you are and how you can represent yourself metaphorically.
Now form a more specific idea of the final assemblage. As you look at the paper, imagine the specific assemblage you want to create. Make sure you’ve formed this image before you move to the next step. Place the items on the paper. Since the composing stage is already done, it’s time to bring your creation into physical existence. How closely did it come to your conception? Become a critic for the assemblage. Look at it for its own sake, independent of the fact that you have created it. Take the items off and go through the same procedures. Make the assemblage again.
By conceptualizing and using materials you had on hand, you created an artistic assemblage from nothing.
If you performed this exercise every day with different objects, you will become an artist who specializes in rearranging different objects into art. It is the activity that turns on the synaptic transmissions in your brain that turn on the genes that are linked to what you are doing, which is responding to an environmental challenge (i.e., the making of an assemblage).
I like to metaphorically compare this to weight lifting. If you want to build muscles, you lift weights. If the weight is heavy enough, it’s going to damage the muscles. That damage creates a chemical cascade and reaches into the nuclei of your muscle cells, and turns on genes that make proteins and build up muscle fibers. Those genes are only turned on in response to some environmental challenge. That’s why you’ve got to keep lifting heavier and heavier weights. The phrase, “No pain no gain,” is literally true in this case. Interaction with the environment turns on certain genes which otherwise wouldn’t be turned on; in fact, they will be turned off if certain challenges aren’t being faced.
The same is true in the brain. When you are producing creative ideas and products, you are replenishing neurotransmitters which are linked to genes that are being turned on and turned off in response to what the brain is doing, which in turn is responding to challenges. When you go through the motions of being creative, you are energizing your brain by increasing the number of contacts between neurons. The more times you act, the more active your brain becomes and the more creative you become.