Wayne White on the Nerves to Create

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Wayne White creator of the 80’s cultural phenomenon Pee Wee’s Playhouse was asked what it takes to be an artist:

I follow instincts instead of intellectual ideas. I really don’t think the artist is an intellectual. I believe that the artist is a set of nerves, nerve endings. That’s what an artist is.

We are nerves and nerve endings. The role of an artist is not to determine the value and intellectual warrant of the art. Whether the thing we make is good, worthy, or commercially viable.

The true artist needs nerve. Lots of nerves because we don’t know what we’re doing. Art is not math and science. Not an intellectual exercise. The creative process comes from a deeper place… the gut, heart, and soul. 

Art is hard to quantify whether it’s quality or not. Some people like genre fiction and others grab literary. One person enjoys the clean lines and sparseness of modern art… while others think Monet nailed it.No one knows why we have to create, or where it comes from, and what is worth keeping around.

Art is birthed from nerves.

The nerves of ordinary children, men, and women, who sit with pencils, crayons, canvas, camera, clay, computer, or tap shoes, and express and make whatever comes through the mind, heart, body, and soul.

When I write… this article, my next book, or a letter to a friend… I need nerves. Nerves to tell the truth. Nerves to love others through the work. Nerves to create whatever The Muse brings into my brain and soul.

I spoke with a fellow writer and creator about why we create. We didn’t know. But we knew… You have to… there’s something calling it out of you. It’s not boredom or wasting time. Creating and art is not a hobby or an indoor activity when it’s hot. We write and create because we have to, and can’t stop if we tried, and want to believe a gift from the Creator being made in his image. We create because it’s in the DNA.

Nerves. Nerve endings. More often than not we need the nerve to create regardless of where the chips may fall. Many artists and creators fall to the wayside because of lack of nerve. They make the thing, and the thing didn’t make them millions, or get their work in a gallery. They quit.

Wayne White gives more advice to the aspiring artist who is losing nerve and wants to quit:

Never rest as an artist, that’s one thing you‘ve got to realize. The minute you get satisfied with yourself, that’s when the work starts to fall apart.

Never rest. Don’t get satisfied. Have nerves. Sounds like good counsel.