I heard of a study years ago that I quote to my students all the time.
I heard about this study 2nd or 3rd hand and never actually read about it
and it occurs to me that my telling of it changes slightly each time I tell it
so please forgive my ‘game of telephone’ approach to retelling.
The gist is what’s important, of course.
Some Art professors at Stanford University did a study where they took a large number
of visual artists and for one year they separated them equally into
to distinct groups in their class.
The artists from Group #1 were told that they could create purely from inspiration……………not fearing a bad grade if they didn’t have a large output………………..’just follow your heart’ they were enjoined to only create when they were inspired.
The artists from Group #2 were told that they had to turn in a finished piece of work on a weekly basis, to be graded whether they were inspired or not. Whatever it was it had to be finished and it had to be a constant weekly output.
At the end of one year, they mixed all the artwork together and randomized it; giving it to several prominent art critics to critique and rate the art.
Amazingly and consistently, the artwork from Group #2 (constant output with our without inspiration) was judged to be ‘better art’ than the artwork of Group #1 (inspiration without necessary constant output).
In the year 2000, I decided, after hearing about this study, that I was going to attempt a full length CD a year for the rest of my life.
I was successful in doing this for the first four years of the decade and around 2005 most people who came to my concerts quit buying CDs altogether, so I though I quit being so album centric, I’ve become much more prolific, consequently in making pieces of music (and accompanying videos) and putting the ‘out there’ to the public. I also still have several
different CD and DVD projects in various forms of completion because I also gave myself permission not to worry about style in my creativity but to constantly make music regardless of style or genre and to finish individual pieces whether they fitted an album format or not.
Before that, I had made 3 really perfectionist released recordings in my life over the previous 20 years…………..I was very proud of all of those recordings. But in returning to those recordings as much as I think I did the best I could, artistically, I realize looking back that they were just who I was at the time: works in progress, as it were.
In retrospect, I look back on the earlier phase of waiting for inspiration and then being perfectionistic about manifesting it and realize that I have grown at a vastly more rapid pace in my abilities and in my sophistication as an artist because I joined the Group #2.
Ironically, I’ve also discovered that the instances of very creative ‘inspirational’ output has gone up significantly using this approach so I think I”m getting the best of both worlds.