Friday, May 1, 2009
A bit of a grumble, and some inspiration
Like many writers, I have my ups and downs. I've been sick since Easter with this rotten cold, and therefore unable to sleep properly or commit fully to the exercise goal I set, and have been following, since January. (A minimum 10,000 steps a day, made more interesting by charting it on a virtual trek across the UK. I'm stalled somewhere around the 310 miles marker in Chesterfield and creeping slowly forward, which is very nice but I'd like to get the heck out of Dodge at this point.) Even my writing has been suffering the last few weeks as I haven't written as much as I should. Okay, not should, as much as I'd like to.
So I'm mired. Flopping about in the mud of Chesterfield while simultaneously wringing my hands and whinging about it (now there's a mental picture.)
But I'm on the mend, and working my way up to my 10,000 daily steps again. And the writing? I have to constantly remind myself that the writing is about me, and not anyone else, and that negative thinking is counter productive. If I critique what I'm writing before I'm finished, or ponder whether or not what I write even has a market, I'm sabotaging the work. It is immaterial at this point and it only bogs me down. The only solution is to just sit my bum in a chair and do the work, without over-thinking it. It's odd, but I don't seem to have this problem with photography. I'm still learning, make lots (lots!) of mistakes, but it doesn't stop me from getting out in the field and fooling around. I still feel that keen sense of excitement that the work brings.
So, what metaphorical smack upside the head works on that inner critic? By understanding and accepting that fear is normal, that a lot if not most artists feel it, but the successful ones just keep on creating. I used to think this kind of thinking was idealistic and therefore foolish, but I have come to realize that idealistic and optimistic are two very different things, and that the latter, when it is applied to writing or anything else in life (like walking my 10,000 steps) is more likely to bear fruit. (Mmm, fruit. Strawberries and whipped cream....)
There is a great little book called ART & FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This excerpt really rang true for me. They write about a ceramics teacher who, on the first day, divided the class into two groups.
"All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class, he would bring in this bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pounds of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."
So what's the lesson here?
Get out there and play with your lumps?