It can seem—and it has to me—that if happiness studies show lowered expectations are key to the relatively greater happiness of, say, The Danes, why not drop them altogether?
But expectations of some level can keep us motivated, expecting just a little consistency or even decency can hold the cads and careless on our lives accountable. Even holding ourselves accountable is one small reason to have a base level of expectation. So, not the moon, but some kind of light, however small.
Not Yet With the Best Ofs, there’s Still Year Left.
I used to really dislike the song, “Santa Baby,” in its many variations. But after hearing the original Eartha Kitt version and reading the lyrics, I’ve turned it around in my head. It’s a grossly materialistic plea, for sure, but it’s also a cute bit of fun, if you don’t take it too seriously.
And, of course, that’s not a bad lesson for life, and for your art. We cringe a little at artists who are really earnest about the value of their own work. Meh. Artists with a sense of humor, and perspective, make me want more of their stuff. It’s a more enjoyable way to experience life and art, both.
Change is all around us. It’s baked into the nature of the universe. Maintaining a little openness to change gives you some flexibility in other areas of life, not to mention your work. It’s the cross-cultural principle that appears in The Talmud, Aesop’s Fables, the Tao Te Ching, and others: be flexible like a reed or a willow, not hard and unbending like a dead branch or a hardwood.
Stopping and Looking Around Once in a While So as not to Miss It (And by “It,” I Mean, Y’know, Life)
The wit and wisdom of Ferris Buehler? Probably could have been a bestseller if they’d had the stones to publish it during the 80s when Ferris was hot. But still. It is true, I believe, that you need to keep looking around you at your world and your life. It does move pretty fast. We can easily get caught in our routines and drudges and overlook the weird, the exciting, the beautiful things that just seem to appear right next to us.
I put up a photo on Instagram a few days ago, showing a gorgeous yellow field of ginkgo leaves next to the freeway near my apartment. Now, just days later, it’s not so amazing—just another patch of bare dirt and some piles and patches. Keep watch: beautiful and strange stuff just shows up, briefly, and you need to be ready for it.
Why We Do What We Do Is a combo of What We Want and What We Need
I’ve kept an eye open for Matt Magee‘s work, because we’re exploring some similar territory. Breaking down the elements of thought and image are sometimes meticulous to an obsessive level. But they’re always appealing.
Liking What You Do Is More Important Than What It Is
Speaking strictly about art (although it might apply to other things), what smart people in the distant past have understood is that your passion for your work brings out the deepest levels and the ideas that are most you. And being yourself is the ultimate goal.
We understand it today because it becomes obvious pretty fast—if you look—that imitating others’ success only gets a little traction, professionally and personally. You’ll almost certainly enjoy your work the more it comes from within you. You don’t have to wonder if it fits the current trends, just that it’s yours. It’s sometimes possible to game the system a bit, but it won’t be as fulfilling as following your own path.
We all stand on the shoulders of our heroes and our predecessors. We learn by practicing and imitating. But the most fun and the most rewarding things are becoming more completely yourself. And it won’t matter what that is, it’ll matter how you feel about it.
The Experience of Failure and Its Diminishing Negative Effects
NaNoWriMo has come and gone. For the second time, I haven’t finished my novel. I have failed to do something.
It’s really no big deal. I fail at a lot of things I try. So does anyone who attempts anything big, or beyond their comfort zone, their routine. Unless you were all talk, it matters that you didn’t just say you were going to do something, but that you actually tried. The important thing is to recognize you broke out of the regular day and leapt.
There are always lessons to learn in any creative attempt. The things we learn today can be applied to what we do tomorrow. They help make those things easier, and there will be successes based on everything we know and have learned. And, often, we had fun! There was joy in making things we didn’t know how to make.
The more we try these new things, unfamiliar things, harder and deeper and more demanding things, the more we learn about life, ourselves, and creativity. The more we do them, the less importance failure has on our existence, and the easier it is to try something else that’s new, or that we know better how to complete.
The fact that I fell down isn’t as important. Getting up and keeping moving forward is.
The Habit of a Daily Thing, and How to Overcome Your Own Resistance
I’ve been working my way through Jerry Saltz’s “How to Be an Artist.” It’s full of good things to carry away, in typically acerbic Saltz-style. There’s plenty to think about—and things to do!—within his 33 rules.
One of his early rules is just to work. You have to work to be an artist. You don’t have to be great, or even very good. But if you aren’t creating. . . something, you’re not what you say you want to be. The habit is one way to keep creating, to make it just part of your routines, the stuff you just have to do every day.
And here’s to overcoming fear to become what you want to be. It’s intimidating, starting out. Its also worth the cost in time and energy.