John Fisher: The Creative Process

by John Fisher

© 2012 John Fisher. All rights reserved. No portion of this essay may be reproduced in any form without prior approval from the author.


The creative process is about magic and believing in miracles. It is about trusting that the process will guide us. It borders on the spiritual, in that a connection is made for which words seem inadequate, yet we witness it. In fact this connection is a sign that the process is working. 


While doing gymnastics, flips, and tumbling, my gym teacher explained that if you don’t really go for the trick, if you hold back at all, you will not have enough altitude and will surely break your neck. It is a very graphic example of a principle, of the creative process that extends itself to all disciplines, and so should be understood as fundamental. Jump off the edge.


If you think you know what you are doing, you are acting from a point of confidence and knowledge. The creative process happens once you have jumped, and you don’t have any solutions.


Once you have surrendered to your fear, given up your control, the magic happens. The doors of perception open and there is a flood of emotion as the first wave hits and your free fall turns into flight.


The creative process becomes a way of life. Its principals are a guide that can give you the courage to face the difficulties and uncertainties of the artistic life. The truth is that it can take over your life; you may become obsessed, intoxicated by the passions that flow through you. Forget sleeping. There is only repose from sheer exhaustion. That doesn’t mean that you get to create all the time, because there are lots of interruptions, but neither does it ever leave you. When you enter the studio, time suspends itself and you work hard, for the joy of it.


There are no failures, they are just steps along the way, and absolutely necessary to the process. The only judgment is the extent that you allowed fear to enter. One of the miracles of creativity is how the phoenix rises out of the ashes of our failures. We behold its splendor. One of my teachers told me that it has to look ugly before it can look beautiful.


You can’t hold on to anything, so beware of becoming attracted to beauty or to truth. Beauty glides noiselessly across the floor. Truth is helplessly cruel. Both will lure you to stop when there is still more work to do.


It doesn’t matter how anyone did it before, not even you have lived this moment before. Remember you are in free fall. You are creating; no amount of thought can save you now.


Sometimes friends or family will say that it is madness; your commitment will be tested. Faith is hard to explain. There is no reason why it should work, no logic, yet there seems to be principals that must be respected in order for the magic to happen. 


There is no time frame for magic, no way to force it. The whole process is one of setting the stage, creating the time and space for miracles, being patient, relentlessly on guard against the pitfalls of fear and control. When the time is ripe, the fruit will come. Remain open as long as possible.


There are various stages in the process, such as the set up, the fall, the flight and the landing, a return to this world. It is a journey that will reveal much about ourselves and is open to all.


The first requirement seems to be purity of intent. It is extremely important as it puts the mind in a state of openness. The point is not to achieve some goal, but of being open to the possibility of witnessing and participating in the magic, the wonder of creation.


Since the results of the experience are a mystery until near the end, it is important to keep the mind during the initial stages concentrated on the broadest of principals, in their abstract or mathematical sense. During this period the questions asked are aesthetic and theoretical.


Once the abstract is in harmony with your emotional state, vision is released from the rational mind and images appear, materialized and often mostly realized. This happens to many of us when we suddenly see an image in the clouds, or a piece of knotty wood.


Here we are presented with the choice of modern art, to share or not to share, your vision with the rest of us. I am an imagist; I believe that the image can be an addition to the abstract qualities of a piece. I wholly embrace pure abstract and just personably am unable to stop at that point.


Choosing the image is totally a personal thing. I have passed up images never to see them again, and at times, gone on to greater and more meaningful images. Often I experience an image so clearly and powerfully that it is irresistible. I wait until I have several images to choose from. The more fully the vision uses all aspects of the abstract, the less you will have to invent.


Our ability to invent is an acquired knowledge. We have to know something thoroughly and have the skill to reproduce it. This is difficult and so it should be avoided during the creative process. One should actively pursue life studies, so that future knowledge, will serve you during the stage of pulling out an image.


When you can’t invent, use reference material or go out on location and do a study, which will resolve the missing element. If you choose a vision that gives you 80% of the information, there should be no problem finding the missing 20%.


In the final stages of perfecting the image all your past can finally be brought to bear on the remaining problems. Only time can fill the reservoirs of your mind. Study life at all times. Although acquired knowledge only comes into the creative process here, at the end, it is nonetheless essential. The more you have, the easier it is.


Use good materials, have respect for your efforts. You don’t need to be struggling with poor materials.


Creation takes an atmosphere that is warm and dry, where you can work undisturbed.


There is no reason to assume any financial benefits. If you want to make money there are other ways.


If you must do it, then there never was a choice.


Buono Lavoro.



Read our interview with John Fisher here.