Browsed by
Category: Uncategorized

Getting Past Your Need for Perfection and Finishing Your Work Is Vital

Getting Past Your Need for Perfection and Finishing Your Work Is Vital

There’s no shortage of creativity coaches out there. Advice abounds on techniques and tools, finding styles, getting inspired and so on. I don’t think it’s stated enough that you should finish your things. People really do get stuck in attempts to make the best thing they can make.

In art school, you often have no choice about finishing pieces, because there’s a bloody deadline breathing down your neck with a fearsome fiery breath, and you’re going to damn well get your ass in gear. I think this is an advantage to paying money for art school. You get a set of projects and have to complete them.

I tend to believe you should:

  1. Work. Exercise your praxis. Do the thing.
  2. Finish the stuff you begin.
  3. Make another thing.

It’s totally true that a lot of would-be artists/writers/musicians never get anything done because they can’t start. They’re so wrapped up in the vision and their (imagined) inability to match it, fear stops them cold. They’re the Never-Good-Enoughs.

Then there are those who start a boatload of things because, hey, art! But they never finish them because it’s hard to get through the boring middle part where you realize it’s a hell of a lot of work to complete things. These are the Forever-Beginners.

One secret I learned pretty fast is that your finished piece will never match your vision—except in extraordinarily rare circumstances. The artists who get a lot of shit done are very okay with this fact, and by getting a lot of stuff done, ironically, they get ever closer to matching their vision to their work.

it happens gradually, but you need things to compare to, and there’s nothing that shows your progress more than the thing you made three years ago, if you kept making things along the way. This is being simply an artist. You’ll learn how long you should take on a piece the more you make.

Reassessment Is Almost Never a Waste of Your Time, but We Don’t All Have the Same Amount of It

Reassessment Is Almost Never a Waste of Your Time, but We Don’t All Have the Same Amount of It

Evaluating your potential for the work is a good periodic activity. It can tell you whether you feel you’re doing your best, or if you’re spinning your wheels and it’s time to move on to try something different. But beating yourself up because you didn’t get enough done that day or week is a self-abusing trap, and you’re better off without it.

I’ve been thinking about a truism that’s both obvious and insufficient. It’s any variation of “we all have the same 24 hours.” I’ve used it here, even. But it’s not an equitable truism. Some of us are more limited by circumstance than others. Some have a part time job and a short commute with no children. Some of us have twins and a sick partner and family obligations. Our free time is unique to us. We may be able to carve out the slices at the edges, but we don’t all get the same range.

So we do what we can with what we have. It’s time, here in 2019, to reject the alienation, fear, toxic rage, and impotent social feeding of the past. It’s time to be nice to ourselves and become encouraging, more so than critical. It’s time to be honest about our resources and recognize that starting a thing, a creative project, is worth a lot. It’s a foundation, a place to build from, and our pace will—at least at the start—be what it is, slow or fast.


Halloween May Be Over, but Its Magic Can Linger

Halloween May Be Over, but Its Magic Can Linger

The impact of scaring ourselves deliberately is a magic trick of the mind. We aren’t the only ones who do it: I’ve watched our cat pretend I’m terrifying just to get a good chase vibe going through the apartment.

But we should acknowledge the delight that a little fear can bring. It motivates and stimulates, and we can apply the same principle to the work we do as creators. Go scare up some magical art moments.

If You Don’t Feed the Fire, You Can Only Work by the Light of the Embers

If You Don’t Feed the Fire, You Can Only Work by the Light of the Embers

That’s my attempt to be quotable. Without sassy characters spouting this stuff, we’re left with titles. This one should be the retort of Jen, the younger sister of a cynical, burned-out musician named Josh. Hm.

Hold on, let me just write down this pitch for a show.

What I’m talking about, though, is making sure you have enough fuel to burn. Never mind inspiration, you need stuff to steal from. As much art as you can handle stuffed in you so it mixes into a stew with all the other art you see and hear.

Go to galleries, web sites, shows, concerts, forums, colleges, museums, streaming TV, magazines, libraries.

And then? I don’t know how or why, but unless you’re trying yo be like one specific person, your things come out different. Art magic.

Take Care, It’s Something Your Work Needs in Large Quantity

Take Care, It’s Something Your Work Needs in Large Quantity

The value of working a retail job at some point in your life as an artist is valuable. The insight into commerce, the feeling of working in service to others—even if only as a raw exchange of goods and services for money, and a camaraderie with people in the same position alongside you are all vital to reaching a deeper understanding of humans in contemporary society. If your art isn’t touching other people in some way, if it’s too . . . deep? It won’t have the power to find and keep an audience or fanbase.

I’ve watched dozens of people I knew over the years find some measure of success with their work, and I’ve come to know a smidgen of it myself. What I’ve noticed about my day jobs, in interacting with customers and clients, is that the amount of care I take with all of them—in craft, in concern that the thing they’re buying is what they want, in appreciation of patronage of all kinds—reflects in a lot of ways in my work. 

I’m not sure you can not give a shit at your job and turn contempt around in your art. Probably some geniuses can, but very few of us indeed are those.

You Know That Blank Feeling You Get Just After You’ve Finished a Particularly Brutal Shift at Work and You Can’t Even Think?

You Know That Blank Feeling You Get Just After You’ve Finished a Particularly Brutal Shift at Work and You Can’t Even Think?

I can’t add much to this title, except that I was thinking about all the mess of social media most of us wade through from time-to-time—or even most of the day, for some—and how to deal with it as it washes over us. Dan Hon laid out some decent philosophical razors in this Medium piece. I like him.

In Which I’m Finding Comfort in Several Things I Like, Media-Wise

In Which I’m Finding Comfort in Several Things I Like, Media-Wise

I’ve been cautious about navel-gazing, here, in that my initial thoughts about what I’m doing and trying to say with the blog were geared toward more universal truths—read “Truths™—and trying to be helpful to other artists. But there’s also a hell of a lot of spaghetti-throwing at the wall to see what sticks and what just makes a soggy mess on the floor.

But I’m moving hundreds of miles away soon. It’s stressful. I’m anxious. In addition to rediscovering how to do the New Age recentering-on-one’s-breath thing, I chose the books I’m reading, the music I listen to, and the videos I watch with a little more care to their humor and their (for lack of a better word) light. Here are a few:

  1. Yogscast Let’s Plays of Minecraft and GTA V
  2. John Hoffman’s Vacationland
  3. Vampire Weekend, Caroline Rose (and Jazz)
  4. Stand-Up comics: Demetri Martin, John Mulaney, and Tig Notaro, whose latest I watched twice.
The Lessons Jazz Can Teach Other Disciplines, Dead or Not

The Lessons Jazz Can Teach Other Disciplines, Dead or Not

And by “dead,” I’m being flippant. Obviously there’s a vibrant jazz scene worldwide, if it isn’t a prominent form at the moment. And maybe it never will be.

When I was phoneless the last couple days, I listened to the local jazz station, the eminent KKJZ. An ethereal, assured voice sang a Jobim standard called “Meditation,” and that confident singer was Fay Claassen, a Dutch musician. Her interpretation was a languid study in wistful longing, and on the musicianship side, I was captivated by the way she closed the song with a series of beautiful, cascading “to me”s. It’s haunting and affecting. Check it out if you didn’t already play the link above.

But choosing to play—or even listen to—this less popular music is instructive to other types of art, especially work that relies on any kind of spontaneity or iteration or abstraction. Jazz is a form of constant invention, where improvisation around a theme or scheme is essential to it. And musicians who study and perform it don’t care that it isn’t the hot thing of the moment. They revel in its free expression and demand for skill.

Writers and painters can find allegories in their own work from this.