Shaun McNiff and ‘Trust the Process’

March 28, 2009

This post refers to the previous one, ‘I Protest’.

One of the most insightful and succinctly written books on the creative process I’ve read to date is, ‘Trust the Process’, by Shaun Mc Niff.  He’s provided me with some clear insights on creating as well as some welcome support for my unpopular view that selling my work is NOT my SOLE PURPOSE or my SOUL purpose on earth.

 For instance, at one point he compares the discipline of contemplation and meditation with art making:

Can you imagine people feeling that their prayers, spiritual exercises, and meditation must be exhibited in a gallery or commercially published? This simple distinction between spiritual exercise and commercial production describes the most fundamental values of my approach to art.


As I get older, public or external recognition for my p intings feels increasingly secondary. The primary emphasis is creative exercise and the  intrinsic enjoyment of the act.

In his book there isn’t one word referring to selling as in any way related to the creative process. And there is  lots of support for stepping outside the current paradigm of what art is and what artists do. He challenges many longheld views, such as that art needs to be made by an individual isolated from the rest of the society. Here he speaks about infusing more creativity into the everyday work environment:

The work environment offers yet another paradox of creative expression. We are overwhlemed with demands and things that have to be done, and we react by longing for more free time to create. We assume that we will be more creative when we are dislodged from the daily regimens that ask so much from us. I find that creativity is generally viewed through the lens of romantic isolation from the world rather from the more realistic perspective of romantic immersion. We still see creativity as something that exists exclusively with ourselves rather than within the activity of our environments.

So what is the new paradigm then? Well, surprise, it is what all of us who are seriously questioning these issues and trying out other paths are making together.  I’ll put forth some visions for how it could be  in the next post.







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