I read articles to procrastinate more than any other activity. It’s cheap, time-consuming, and allows me to justify it—with no actual verity—by telling myself it’s research of some kind. Just today a few things I read were
Whether the game “Chinese whispers,” as “telephone” is known in the U.K., is racist (people were mostly unsure, but it is)
The Wikipedia page for the Tom Servo character on MST3K
…and several other things.
It’s definitely a problem. But possibly a problem I can get a handle on by being more aware of the habit. Chipping away at procrastination is an ongoing practice of reminding my monkey mind trivia can wait for breaks.
Few things are as satisfying as diving deeply into a realm of artistic experience you resonate with. Gaming, painting, books, film—there are depths beyond depths if you choose to explore beyond the surface experience of any art.
But, of course, it doesn’t change the raw experience any casual patron of the medium might have. It’s still the primary goal of any work of art to invoke some kind of reaction in the people who experience it. The filmgoer who watches The Green Book, say, shouldn’t be viewed as a lesser participant in the work than a scholar of cinema who understands layers of subtext and craft that went into the film’s creation. Most people don’t, after all. Every person deserves their personal experience without a requirement to study mechanics of creation or art beforehand, unless the thing is specifically designed for that purpose.
I think I mean to say that we can hope the deeper meaning behind our work is appreciated and understood by our audience. But a deep and personal connection, regardless of how studied the patron’s background, is the first and important thing in giving your work to the world.
Questioning Our Assumptions and What We Think We Know
Thinking about this meta-analysis of studies involving children asked to “draw a scientist.” More kids drew women as scientists over time, and girls drew them more often than boys, but it’s still encouraging for both diversity and perception of occupational roles.
Another thing I thought about, though, was the way it encourages us to question our assumptions about people and jobs. It’s a good thing to do that, and I wonder if art isn’t good training. We try to encourage each other to see with new eyes and to throw out what we think we know in favor of what’s there—and of what’s possible.
Sometimes It All Goes Horribly Wrong and There’s Sweet Diddly You Can Do About It
But the sentiment of the rest of his monologue (followed by an extended version of “Brazil”) is valuable. Sometimes you have to distract yourself in order to find your own happy moments. If that’s mambo, well, good. If it’s your work, even better. Let your art take over.
The Full Meaning of Your Work May Never Be Known to You
It seems to me there’s no shortage of advice to imbue your work with meaning, and to understand what your work is about. Some say because if you don’t know what it’s about, joe will other people know?
The better advice, I think, comes from those who say you don’t have to know what your work means, and I say, further, you may never know fully what it means.
That’s mostly because we’re only half the equation of art. The audience or public in general are the other half, and everyone brings their own experience and insight to what you make. Art is open to interpretation by its nature. Even if you purposefully craft a particular meaning, there will be different ways to understand it.
It’s fine, even good, to have a subtext. As long as we aren’t to attached to it or dogmatic about it when we send it into the world. Part of the wonder of art is in that relationship with the ones who take in the things we make.
When the Road Seems Ever Long(er), Remember How Far You’ve Come
It’s not often the artist’s journey™ feels like a short walk to success town. Usually it’s a Frodo-level exhausting slog, that nonetheless comes with many rewarding stops.
But you can’t see a long journey ahead unless you’ve been working on things for a while. And when you feel overwhelmed with how far there is to go, there’s a good bit of stuff you’ve already done. In reality, there isn’t a place to end, there’s always somewhere new to travel to, further along your particular road. In that sense, you’re always at the same place looking forward, but looking at how far you’ve come will build for as long as you make art.
Artist to artist, the Connections We Make Are Vital
From the ever-bountiful @WomensArt1 on Twitter, this wonderfully caring and open-hearted letter from Frida Khalo to Georgia O’Keefe is a reminder that we need our friends. And some of those friends who are fellow artists often understand best how the journey feels.
It coincides with this article on how artists tend to find their fame through their professional networks, that is, their artist friends. Food for thought.
I was in for a check up, and they wanted to draw blood for testing. Fine, “but,” I added, “just so you know, I have fainted before, once, after they poked me four times in a row unsuccessfully,” which is something like I always say. Usually, they get a vein after one or two tries, and we all go our merry ways.
This time, however, the nurse kept digging in deeper, and it got to me, consciously and subconsciously. I felt myself slipping away as the burning in my left arm intensified and the room spun a slow circle.
I woke up on my back in the chair, fully reclined, while the nurse held my feet in the air. I guess that’s what they do to get better blood flow to your brain, maybe. It took a long time to recover, and I still have to go get blood drawn soon.
It’s weird that these kinds of altered consciousness exist. I had a very short dream while I was out, though I don’t remember it. It’s the kind of thing that artists have historically made work from, dreams and strange alterations. I do suspect the majority don’t involve such harrowing causes.
Appreciation for the Little Things Is Best Practices
This goes for bosses, cow-orkers, friends, and family. Everyone likes to be recognized, and this is a small way to keep up with the positive ways they all impact your life. It’s also a little bit of a humility check.
None of us get to where we are alone, and we don’t just need each other for the big things. Lots of small acts of generosity, accommodation, and support go mostly unrecognized day-to-day. If you go out of your way to notice them and say something to the ones who make them, you’re ahead of the human game. It can feel like a more angry world out there. We need more love and more expressed recognition.
Saying “it could be worse” can invalidate emotions and circumstances. It not that you want to try to always be positive. But “things can only get better” isn’t superior. That’s unrealistic and possibly harmful, too.
But if you say one, remember the other is just as valid. It’s a tempering move, something to brace against while you tackle to tough, real world with your soft feelings and ideas. Feel your feelings and keep moving along, move forward, move even though you’re afraid. Make stuff and make the next stuff better than this stuff. Sometimes that’s enough.