Vinny Eden Ortega
5 Steps To Reconnect with Your Art
By Vinny Eden Ortega
As artists we’ve all been there. A period of time where we check out and lose touch with our work. Whether because of a pandemic, a major life event, or life’s daily tribulations getting in the way; sometimes we find ourselves straying off path.
In the pandemic I checked out. But when I finally felt ready to jump back in the saddle, I didn’t know where to start. I almost forgot who I was as an artist.
I needed to reconnect with my art.
I broke the process down into 5 steps that I hope can help you reconnect with your art too.
STEP 1: GEEK OUT
Indulge in Your Influences
The first step in reconnecting with the artistic self is to start where it all began. Influences and inspirations. Indulge yourself in the works of your creative heroes, the ones who first attracted you to the craft. Rewatch the TV shows that inspired you to write, jam out the very songs that made you the musician you are; reacquaint yourself with the works that make you go, “YESSSSS!”.
For me this took the form of rereading the plays that made me want to write, such as August Wilson’s Fences and Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman. I also not only listened to Patti Smith’s music but took time to read the lyrics that first resonated with me.
So go on, enjoy the masterpieces that started it all for you.
STEP 2: MEET YOURSELF
View Your Work Like It’s Not Yours
Would you like your poem more if you thought it was written by someone else? In this step I challenge you to revisit your work as if it were someone else’s. Don’t critique it, just take it in as if experiencing it for the first time. To help this, try reframing the context in which you experience the work. If you usually see your paintings in your studio- try bringing them to another room and look at them there. If you’re used to reading your short stories from your iPad, try printing and binding them. If you listen to your music out loud from your home computer desk, try listening to it on a hike through headphones. Anything to make experiencing the work fresh and new.
Usually I read my plays from a screen in my living room, often stopping and starting to take notes. To revisit my works I decided to read them as if I were reading a play by another author. I printed the plays out, brought them to the park, and read them uninterrupted and without critique.
Enjoy your work as you would others’.
STEP 3: GAS YOURSELF UP
Make a List of Positives
Now that you’ve reacquainted yourself with your work, make a list of positives. “My dialogue follows naturally”, “my choices of subject matter are refreshing”; these compliments don’t even need to be tangible, comments like, “this piece just feels right”, are totally valid. There will be plenty of times for critique- plenty, plenty, plenty; this is not that time. “I make clothes that not only look good but tell a story”, “my vibrant colors evoke an immediate response”, “my voice sounds amazing, yes I am SLAYING!”. Also, write it down. When you write it, it becomes real; so write them on paper and place them somewhere you can reference when you need a little extra lovin’.
For myself I wrote down, “I have a knack for creating complicated characters”, “the worlds I create are thrilling and magical”, and “damn, I sure can write juicy monologues!”
Give yourself the flowers you deserve!
STEP 4: TESTIMONIAL
Ask Colleagues to Describe Your Work
It is said that one's identity is made of two halves- how you see yourself and how others see you. Often our work as artists is made for the gaze of others to absorb or interpret. As a playwright and director, how my work is perceived by others is very important; so important it’s the whole point. Ask colleagues familiar with your work to describe you as an artist. This step is important to reconnecting with your art because it can reveal aspects of your work that you perhaps missed or weren’t aware of. It provides valuable information about how your art exists in the world directly from the people who know it first hand.
When I took this step a colleague of mine said, “ I would describe you as focused and observant, introspective and strategic, intuitive and always looking to recreate a sensory experience.”
Who knows what you might discover?
STEP 5: REJUVENATE
Priming Yourself for the Journey Ahead
After reconnecting with your artistic self, you deserve down time. Rejuvenate. Whatever this means to you. Rejuvenation is as individual as our identities. Let’s abandon the idea that self care looks one way- if face masks, hot baths, and yoga don’t center you; don’t do them. Perhaps recharging for you is watching reality TV, working out, yelling to screamo music in the mirror, calling your mom, hell it could even be skydiving! Rejuvenation is whatever you need to prepare yourself for the artistic journey ahead of you.
For me it is grounding myself spiritually; lighting the candles of my altar with intention and sipping on lemon ginger tea.
Take care of your (he)art.
This by no means a set-in-stone-tried-and-true-tested-methodology but it’s where I started in my process of reconnection.Your journey will look different than mine. Perhaps you need to start with Rejuvenation and then Geek Out. Maybe you need to repeat Gas Yourself Up between every step. You can add, subtract, multiply, and divide steps. At the end of the day what’s most important is that you’re trying. In times like these, trying is enough. Trying is a courageous act.
I am already so proud of you.
Vinny Eden Ortega is a New York City based theatre director, playwright, and artistic director originally from Clearwater, Florida. Ortega is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. vinnyedenortega.com