“Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In artistic creativity, spiritual teacher and self-help author Eckart Tolle says, “enthusiasm means there is deep enjoyment in what you do plus the added element of a goal or vision you work toward.”

This is a special kind of enthusiasm in the joy of creating art. It comes mostly from submerging yourself in the process and sheer exuberance of creativity – not worrying too much about getting it right, just GOING. And yet for most artists, Tolle’s “goal or vision you work toward” is super important as well.

So making art isn’t always JUST about playing – there is that, or should be, but there’s also a goal, a particular painting or kind of painting you feel passionate about that fuels your making. Hold that framework lightly, Tolle suggests, but do hold it. It provides “a certain degree of what we might call structural tension” that “supercharges the enjoyment…. Enthusiasm knows where it is going, but at the same time, it is deeply at one with the present moment, the source of aliveness, its joy, and its power.” That’s a great way of looking at the balance of forces involved here.

In my experience, it is ALL TOO EASY to tip the balance of that joy. When we become too invested in the outcome (and who doesn’t?),  we lose touch with the pleasure of being, of doing, in the moment. And who doesn’t love those moments when we’re deeply into our craft, whisked away for hours at a stretch, buoyed by the flow of creation?

So maybe watch yourself. Have a goal, but “when you want to arrive at your goal more than you want to be doing what you are doing, you become stressed,” Tolle says. “The balance between enjoyment and structural tension is lost, and the latter has won.”

As I wrote previously, the root of the word enthusiasm comes from the ancient Greek enthusiasmos or en-theos, to be filled with a god. To my mind, this takes some of the pressure off, and maybe this is a way of holding the “goal or vision” lightly enough so that it doesn’t derail the flow.

I don’t have to generate it all by myself; enthusiasm comes out of how I approach what I’m already doing. I become filled with enthusiasm by having a goal but holding it lightly enough to be open to anything. Maybe we find it by first getting our hands dirty, making lots of mistakes, and staying open and interested in what’s going to happen next.

Enjoying the process AND working toward something awesome and exciting – that seems to be the sweet spot. “At the height of creative activity fueled by enthusiasm, there will be enormous energy behind what you do,” Tolle writes. “You will feel like an arrow moving toward the target and enjoying the journey.”

Sculpture as Wind-Walking Beasts: The Art of Theo Jansen

Dutch contemporary artist Theo Jansen is part artist, part engineer. He creates wild kinetic sculptures that roam around the Netherlands’ beaches. Says Jansen: “I make skeletons that are able to walk on the wind, so they don’t have to eat. Eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives.” 

Strandbeesten (or Strandbeest in singular) as he calls his creations, means “beach beasts” in Dutch. Since 1990, Jansen has created large moving kinetic structures that are sometimes wind-propelled and in that way able to move on their own like walking animals. They are constructed from PVC pipes, wood, fabric airfoils, and zip ties. You can watch a brief video on Jansen and his work here.