McNiff reminds his readers of the basic tenant of life - if nothing happens, nothing happens. One must engage with the creative process through the act of doing something on a repetitive basis. For some this might be an easy process and yet for others, they might need a midwife to assist them with the delivery of their creative offspring. Each person starts with what they know and build upon their knowledge through a learning of techniques. “As a rule,” McNiff states, “the process of emanation occurs on its own schedule and not on ours. Creative insights perversely appear when we are occupied with something else.” One can teach creativity techniques, not creativity. It is through these connections of ideas our minds generate is the precise skill creativity gathers and absorbs. Just as a child matures, so does an artist. Over a period of time a person broadens their understanding of what works and what does not. It is through this perspective of wonder and discovery and a willingness to put aside the judgment of one’s creations, the individual begins to flourish as art requires experimentation much like childhood. Everything depends upon the quality of attention and attitude we take to which we apply our own perceptions.
McNiff opens his third chapter with “The Mistake is a message that calls for attention.” Part of our socialization has distorted this message with a focus on one should not make a mistake rather than understanding the intention of the message. It is when a person obsesses about the mistake, they miss the message it is calling attention to...for example, cleaning up only the water found at the floor of kitchen sink rather than turning off the faucet. The mistake is the overflowing water found on the floor. The message the mistake was giving direction to is the faucet was left on. The same is within any creative expression. McNiff alerts his reader to be aware of how we perceive our mistakes as we might already have a framework as a reference. Many people do not begin any creative endeavor as they fear making a mistake may mean “they are a mistake.” Their perception of “not doing something the right way,” is a normal condition of our socialization. Imagine never having been aware of any mistakes you have made. Mistakes are guides for what works and what does not. Even in an artmaking world, mistakes can become the necessary shift to lift our creative inhibitions much the way Picasso began with his work - to make use of them in novel ways. McNiff suggests to his readers "everything can be put to use in within the creative process," - recycle, reduce, reuse, even one's beliefs about our abilities to create.
I encourage you to buy a copy of Trust the Process for a better understanding of your own creative process. Whether you're a master artist or beginning artist, this is an excellent book.