Figuring Out How Full the Glass Is

I did it again, left the blog too long and it was a little too late to post something yesterday. But it’s not that big a deal, I just resolve to be better in the future. Sometimes we miss.

I have a tendency to consider how much I haven’t done, rather than the opposite. But the only thing I think matters is what gets made. It doesn’t matter later what didn’t happen.

Optimist or pessimist, viewing how full my creative glass is misses the point most of the time. in the end, we only have this moment to make things and a possibility of making more in the future. What has passed can’t be re-lived. Recognizing I messed up a goal of mine—in this case daily blogging—is fine, as long as I leave it there and try again.

Never Apologize for Your Taste

Ray Bradbury was fond of the sentiment above, that you shouldn’t feel ashamed or inadequate because of the things you enjoyed. The set of cultural memes and art you like are a fingerprint of your personal aesthetic, probably as unique as you yourself. There are far better and more worthy worries out there.

That isn’t to say we don’t grow and learn, and trying out new things is part of that exploration. But the taste judges don’t deserve space in your head to demean what you like. No guilty pleasures.

Periodic Be Kind to Yourself Post

Unless you’ve just forgiven yourself for failing to do something you’d determined to start, or lapsing on a new habit, or any similar creative project, it’s time to do so.

It is very easy to beat yourself up about failure. Today, give yourself a break. It’s okay to have failed or fallen short of your ideal.

The only snag is that—like forgiveness—you want to see resolve to change going forward.

And if you haven’t failed? It’s time to acknowledge how far you’ve come and be content. Be kind. Progress and skill aren’t served well by self-flagellation. Good job, you.

My Earliest Work

There it is. I was hoping, when I found the booklet with all my classmates’ drawings alongside mine, there’d be something I could point to and say, “see? It was obvious I should be making art from the beginning.

But I look at that mass of scribbled black and have to say I don’t think it’s particularly telling. It’s weird, I suppose there’s that. But here’s something else: it goes to show that very few of us start any creative path with any shred of expertise. We learn, we try, we fail, we slowly slowly slowly improve.

Returning to Form, Maybe

I’m back! Probably! It’s been a long, traumatic move. Being in a new place, with old stuff, is disorienting. Habits I thought I’d established are more easily broken. But still, change is usually good. It’s inevitable, so better to go the Taoist route and bend rather than break.

As easy as it is to blow off posting here, it’s also uncomfortable. I like the discipline of it, and I think it helps me, creatively. It’s also easy to beat myself up about missing days, but that approach only makes us want to stay away more. Whatever we do—our thing, our work—if it’s habitual, is valuable not just for its content, but also its ability to act as outlet, or creative hydrant. Its meaningfulness is deeply ingrained in the simple act of creation. We should continue.

So Many Fire Irons but You Can Handle Them

Because they’re not red hot, gettit? Cheese aside, there’s an advantage to working on several things in parallel. I’m not against extreme focus, but if you’re the type to be scattered, scheduling creative stuff in blocks—or just picking up where you left off when you notice the thing—there are a couple advantages to it and you don’t have to apologize or despair for this habit.

People asking what your thing is might want a pat answer. Sometimes, there isn’t one: you do a lot because you’re interested in a lot. You’re a Carl Sagan of art. Sagan was an astronomer. But he also wrote books. He hosted and co-wrote a popular tv series. That series spanned geology, physics, and chemistry, among many other things, as well as astronomy.

Having many creative loves, or many ideas that demand you work on them now, is perfectly fine. Maybe you could finish a thing sooner if you focus on that one thing. But would you have as much fun?

The New Perspectives of Old Minds (Yes, Post-40-Something): Billy Idol Edition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw1oM7LBbxE

For weird, synchronistic and untraceable reasons, I got Flesh for Fantasy, above, there, stuck in my mental earholes earlier in the day. When it was released, I was in high school, and had eclectic taste even then. But though I respected Idol’s presence and abilities as a songwriter and singer, it didn’t seem particularly special.

Now, through a lens of 35 more years of listening to music, it’s scintillating. There are beautiful tones and colors on guitar and guitar synthesizer both. The song is very dynamic, rolling from the sneering shouts of the chorus, to the soft whispers of verses. It’s not characteristic of much music then or now, when so much production isn’t allowed to breathe and rest, it’s balls-to-the-wall sound and—if you’re lucky—silence.

An advantage of age often mentioned but not appreciated, maybe, is wisdom. Along with that is a sense of perspective. Things look different through a lens of decades. Art of all kinds can be reassessed like this. Sometimes things you thought were great turn out to be paper thin. And—if you’re lucky—some things turn out to have great depth.

Christoph Niemann’s Anxiety and Rumination

A person reading a newspaper in a chair, its back facing us, which is peppered with knives sticking out of it.

Image (c) Christoph Niemann

It’s a rather old story in internet terms, but in 2916, Wired published a long excerpt and many illustrations from Niemann’s monograph, Sunday Sketching. It touches on several aspects of what I talk about here, but offers a glimpse inside the insecurities and doubt that even successful artists harbor.

While working, I must be kind and forgiving with my fragile self. But sometimes I must try to look at my oeuvre with the eyes of an old and jaded misanthropic outsider (or a young and jaded misanthropic insider).

Positive and Negative Thinking and the Value of Both

I’m not a fan of the positive thinking movement as it’s usually presented to me. The push to constantly be and think positively seems oppressive. I think there’s value in seeing a positive side to things, and sometimes a positive attitude can turn a moment around for you when you’re confronted with shame or blame.

But your so-called negative feelings—cultural labeling, mind—are valuable, too. Our feelings are a deep part of our humanity. Sadness and anger aren’t the dark side. They just are.

It’s important to feel everything so you can interpret it through your work. Your set of emotions is a unique mix, and that thumbprint is more prominent the more you embrace it.

A Quick Note on Getting More Sleep, Which You Need for Not Being Tired

Artists, you need your dreams. You need them even more when they’re in the middle of a solid sleep cycle.

It’s well established now that lack of adequate sleep (for almost everyone, that’s 7–9 hours) compromises most systems in your body. Nap it up. Snooze or lose. Shovel in the shuteye.

I didn’t do as well in school on days after I’d stayed up till wee hours painting. And the paintings weren’t as good, either. Creativity needs serious unconscious time. Here endeth the lesson.