Sometimes you just get obsessed. Sometimes this is flow, the zen state, in the zone, and your work is going well. But sometimes it might just be fascination and the puzzle of whatever you’re focused on, but that doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s a long thread on social media that keeps going in circles. It’s day-to-day coverage of politics.
It’s rarely necessary, but it’s addictive. If it keeps you from working on your thing, it’s probably better to treat it like a momentary thought in meditation practice. Notice, then let it go.
It does sound easier than it seems. The secret to meditation practice, though, is that you aren’t judging the distraction. You’re just noticing it exists. It’s okay that it comes back. We’re patient.
Acknowledge the obsession, then turn back to the thing you make. Repeat as needed.
I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be making art if we didn’t love it. Maybe there’s some tortured genius out there who’s just ambivalent about art in general, but keeps making it because she’s really good at it. But probably not.
It doesn’t follow that because we’re fascinated and enamored by a few or thousands of artists that we appreciate our own. Artists as their own worst critic is more true than not, in my experience, and that can easily extend to bald hatred of their own work.
I’m here to ask you to go easy on yourself. Making art—creating at all, really—is hard. Our visions of what could be don’t match what comes out in the physical world. But there’s tremendous value in giving of yourself so deeply. Pulling the viscera of your inner being out into daylight is brave and revealing. You deserve gentle adulation just for that.
One of the strangest elements of going to sleep is losing consciousness. The person we are seems to just go away for a while. The person who wakes up isn’t quite the same consciousness. So are we the same person we were the day before?
Whether this holds true as we study the way consciousness works is, to me, irrelevant to the application of it to art and to making. It may be useful to think of ourselves as always renewing, always arising with the potential and promise of a new person—who still holds pretty much the same ways of thinking, goals, and student loan debt.
It’s easy to get caught in the quicksand of self-doubt and worry, of course. The negative “what-ifs” that catalog all the things that can go wrong. The critic telling us we’re not good.
But we also can decide to think of ourselves as new beings, and there are all the things that can go right. Maybe you’re not the same person: you’re someone else stepping into the place of the one who was in your place yesterday. Someone who has the memories, but doesn’t have to take on the baggage of yesterday
Tomorrow, we are different people. We can start our making again, and maybe not beat ourselves up about how good it is because, well, we’re new.
Art, of course, art isn’t a competition. There areoccasional exceptions, as when someone wins a first place at the fair, say. But in general, we aren’t here to win any games or contests. We’re putting stuff out into the world because of loving the making.
If rabbits is the thing that you keep returning to, then let that happen. Lately it seems that’s what I do. And it’s okay. Repeating yourself until you find the next thing or new path can lead to wonderful discoveries.
We don’t always have to be working toward the new thing. Sometimes we need to exhaust the possibilities of a path or subject we’ve been working on. The important part is that we’re continuing to do the work and sincerely exploring ideas.
Anderson has long been one of my favorite artists, hard to pin down, stylistically, and spanning multiple media. Here, she breaks down the need to change our perspective to embrace the changing humanscape, where cultures meld and millions have to absorb either an influx of new people or being thrust into a new society.
These thought patterns have implications for thinking about and moving forward with your work.
There’s a choice in your daily interaction with someone, whether they’re a stranger or friend. You can’t change what they’ll do or say. But you can choose what you assume about them when you come together. It’s easy to jump to conclusions if something goes wrong, or it seems like they said something weird.
Your reaction maybe isn’t as much in your control as you’d like, but setting yourself up for confrontation, sarcasm, or annoyance is. And before you have to react, you could just as easily assume the best of them.
Assume they have good intentions and most of the time, you’ll be right. I’m aware of the road-to-hell cliché, but I’m just talking about the very small, in-the-moment things. Times when you could be working together on a problem or even a disaster to resolve something. It seems a small or silly thing. But it puts you on a more equitable level.
We’re usually the heroes of our own stories. We’re the one in-charge, the one who knows what’s up, and it’s easy to forget most others are the same. But assuming the best of someone—that they’re trying and sincere and engaged—means a mutually beneficial result of whatever you’re doing together most of the time. Be kind. We’re in this together.
Ai Weiwei posted this video on his Instagram account this past week. It seems to show a man on his cell phone obliviously walking into Weiwei’s installation of porcelain sunflower seeds on a museum floor.
As with most of his posts, there is no comment from Ai about it. Reaction from fans and followers are almost universally horror struck. A few are cynical about it being staged. Is it faked? Maybe. I’m not sure it matters that much.
We spend a lot of time making things. We spend much less time thinking about their ephemerality. That should be part of how we consider the things of the world. Nothing is forever. If we embrace the impermanence of it all, I think we might be able to laugh at the absurdity of things like our bestowing some kind of sacred status on finished work.
This incident with the Weiwei piece, or even actively destructive things elsewhere, are some kind of connection with that existential absurdity. I feel like that’s a bigger statement than we can make on our own. Maybe we’d have more fun and make better things afterward by emphasizing the intangible meaning of this, rather than the perfection of craft or the object.
Sometimes, it’s just about the strange image being made. These sketches or doodles often seem to me to have little to do with the content of the post, but every now and then I’ve messed with them to the point I feel they should just carry the post on their own.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.