We used to live for the craft and the craft lived for us. We created despite the craft, in spite of the craft. The craft was our opponent, and we were it's arch-enemy because it was a dance, a give and take. Will I be successful today? Will the Muse descend? We never knew.
(I do apologize for any confusion. When I refer to Art, I'm referring to writing as well, or any form of creation really.)
This state of unsure contention was where the Art lived, because the battle never really was with Art itself, it was with ourselves.
That changes when we attend webinars, listen to podcasts, and read books aimed at teaching us step-by-step how we should craft our art. It's not art for art's sake. Its art for productivity's sake, for money's sake, for the sake of finishing a work.
Finishing a work isn't bad. Productivity isn't bad either. Money isn't bad. Structure and Step-by-Step guides aren't necessarily bad. What is bad is taking the Art out of the Art, breaking the process into a series of steps, and focusing on the progression of the art instead of the heart of the piece.
We don't teach to our kids that way. We don't train our animals that way. We don't speak to ourselves as if taking a series of necessary steps before we can claim, "I'm done!"
What we do is let life be life, free and flowing. We take necessary action to teach, correct, or encourage, but we don't celebrate the educational system we choose to implement over the child, animal, or ourselves.
What does it mean to make art? And how do we know when we're doing it?
I'm a purist who believes that Ideas can't be forced. However, I do believe that they come when we're actively pursuing them. Great ideas stem from the ideas of our predecessors, so reading often and sharing stories is a great way to receive ideas of your own. The Trick is being receptive.
Louis L'amour said, "Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on."
Practice your craft. Practice receiving ideas and implementing them. Practice art for the sake of art.
Rushing to get pieces finished doesn't do any favors for you, as the creator, or the art. Take your time on the little details, because mistakes or laziness translates to your viewers and readers. They see the things that may have been, but were overlooked as amateur workmanship, which deters them from the work. Don't get sucked into the rat race of needing to produce quickly.
Quantity does not equal quality, and art is all about quality of the work. In order to make quality work, you have to put in the work. The work can be made easier with structure, but can be less open to the breathing of the art itself. Celebrate the Art itself if you want quality.
How do we know if the art is quality?
When it makes us feel things we would not have felt otherwise. Countless artists have declared Art in countless ways, but the simple truth is that Art is the truth of our souls, and when those souls meet, Art has done it's job.
That being said, even following a "How-To" or basing your rhythm of completion upon another Artist's work, doesn't necessarily make your creation not art. We aren't Neal Caffrey, Master Forger, from the TV Show "White Collar," who makes the copies of famous works of art indistinguishable from the original. What we are comes out in our work.
Your work is your own, has your unique stamp. And that's incredible.
Art is a living thing. It conceptualizes the things we feel and experience, and structures itself according to our unconscious thoughts, shaping the things we don't understand, re-imagining the things we do. It takes time to bring into the world, especially if one does it with the care it deserves.
Art is not cookie-cutter simple, "Follow this method, and all your troubles are over." It doesn't always fit in a box, nor should it. It stretches beyond the norm. That's what makes it Art.
If you don't know how to produce the art, then by all means use the tutorials and suggestions. If productivity is your goal, take advantage of the quicker writing methods, but keep your own unique flavor and make the work the absolute best it can be.