Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 6

This is the last subheading of Art & Fear's chapter "Fears About Yourself. My comments will be in blue brackets.


"...expectations provide a means to merge imagination with calculation. But it's a delicate balance--lean too far one way and your head fills with unworkable fantasies, too far the other and you spend your life generating "To DO" lists.

"Worse yet, expectations drift into fantasies all to easily. At a recent writers' workshop, the instructor labored heroically to keep the discussion centered upon issues of craft (as yet unlearned), while the writers (as yet unpublished) labored equally to divert the focus with questions about royalties, movie rights and sequels.

"Give a small kernel of reality and any measure of optimism, nebulous expectations whisper to you that the work will soar, that it will become easy, that it will make itself. And verily, now and then the sky opens and the work does make itself. Unreal expectations are easy to come by, both from emotional needs and from the hope or memory of periods of wonder. Unfortunately, expectations based on illusion lead almost always to disillusionment.

"Conversely, expectations based on the work itself are the most useful tool the artist possesses. What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution...Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work. There is no other such book, and it is yours alone. It functions this way for no one else. Your fingerprints are all over your work, and you alone know how they got there. Your work tells you about yor working methods, your discipline, your strengths and weaknesses, your habitual gestures, your willingness to embrace.

"The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly--without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child."

[The penultimate line sticks out the most to me: Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. What I need brings in that much larger picture, with all my fears and insecurities, and all my thoughts about the future of my career, etc. Well, guess what, the future of my career is made now, in making this book the best it can be.

This marks the end of my quoting from Art & Fear. Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the things I've learned from the entire book, not just this chapter.]

Buy Art & Fear at $10.36. 122 pages.

Read Part 7


Pam Halter said...

"Ask your work what it needs, not what you need.'"

WOW! That's a mind changing statement if ever I saw one.

Jason said...

This has been a great series. I read your blog at about 5:20 am every morning, as I get my shoes on to catch a very early bus to work. (thus not much time to comment usually). I appreciate you highlighting this book as it is as advertised: a challenging read. I'm definitely going to be getting it.