No, Artists Don’t Have a Creative “Sixth-Sense.”

When my daughter was a newborn, I’d wake up in the middle of the night just a few moments before she would. From perfect sleep, my eyes would flicker open to the dark silence of a still room. Then, after a minute or two, my daughter’s little body would sidle back and forth, and she’d start to cry.

We live in a world that loves unattainable success, the kind of victory that seems otherworldly. It creates a hunger in us for the same: some magical key that will usher us up the steps and right through the door to what we want.

As a new mother, part of me wondered if it was just that–some otherworldly answer about the soul-tie between mother and child that can only exist when something has been an actual part of you. Of course, I was wrong.

When she was about two months old, I was working on the couch while she slept next to me. I was cruising away, hands moving in a Zen-like rhythm as I twisted ribbon after ribbon of lilac silk around hundreds of raw cotton invitations. Suddenly my hands stopped, my flow state broken, my brain preoccupied. I waited, and about a minute later, my daughter started to cry.

It was there I caught it: her breathing had changed. Her breath those days was little more than a tiny flutter, the gentle shudder of a butterfly’s wings. But a few minutes before crying out, the perfect rhythm of her breathing had switched into something less predictable, and somewhere in my brain, I got it.

It wasn’t some nebulous secret. It was hours and hours of repetition. Of time spent studying this baby and learning her habits, even when I was sleeping.

A mother in my life who I greatly respect and consider a true pro once heard my daughter cry and thought, “Oh, she’s tired.” At the same time, I said that I needed to feed her. She remarked to me that we’ve scared childless women half to death by making them believe mothers have a sixth sense about their children, when the truth is it’s just hundreds of hours of observation.

I think the same is true of art. We’ve sold artists the lie that the ones who make it big are the ones who have some unattainable favor, crafted in the stars and granted to them by the gods. Reaching for their level feels like swatting at stardust.

In truth, they’ve been studying their craft, honing their success through hundreds if not thousands of hours of repetition. All we witness is the “sixth-sense,” moment, and sadly, we believe that’s all there is to it.

Because that’s the easy way up: a skeleton key that unlocks it all with the simple turn of the wrist. Don’t believe the lie.

It’s the million movements of pen against paper that will get you there.

Featured Image Credit

One response to “No, Artists Don’t Have a Creative “Sixth-Sense.””

  1. This actually resonates with me by way of managing and running a successful business. People will tell me that I am a master of problem solving, easing tensions, and creating positivity- well that took years and years of diving deep and learning strategies that work! Thank you for highlighting the “grit.”


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