I’ve been reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit in preparation for a new project and was particularly inspired by the metaphor in this opening passage: “I walk into a large white room,” she writes. “It’s a dance studio in midtown Manhattan. The room is lined with eight-foot-high mirrors. There’s a boom box in the corner. The floor is clean, virtually spotless if you don’t count the thousands of skid marks and footprints left there by dancers rehearsing. Other than the mirrors, the boom box, the skid marks, and me, the room is empty.”
She goes on to explain that, as creatives, our white room symbolizes something different for each of us. An empty WordPress post. A blank canvas. A naked dress form. And it can be terrifying. So we procrastinate and distract and loaf until the day has passed and we return to that same emptiness, feeling a number of things: failure, regret, doubt.
I have a dear artist friend who, when faced with “artist’s block”, paints something truly horrible onto the canvas. Because then, he has a project in front of him. He has officially started, and he’s no longer faced with the proverbial white room or blank canvas. He’s no longer beginning, he is simply editing and honing and finishing. The creative seal has been broken and the flow can begin.
There’s a wall painted by Capetown artist Ricky Lee Gordon that reads, “Removing the greyness from the soul of the city is the job of musicians, artists and poets.” And sometimes grey looks a lot like white. Or sometimes, it looks like a jumbled mess.
But every now and then, we create something magical from that white room. Take Shinji Ohmaki, for example, who created thousands and thousands of floral motifs in an otherwise bare, blank space – all in a span of ten days. I’m sure his stencils aren’t perfect. I’m sure there are ample mistakes, a sign of an impending deadline or internal pressure or tired hands. But none of that matters. What matters is that Shinji’s room has bloomed into something colorful and radiant and beautiful, full of life and creativity.
What matters is that his room is no longer white.
Image Credits: Shinji Ohmaki
p.s. More multi-colored joy spreading from Koji Iyama.