By Steven Pressfield
Published: May 22, 2013
The artist’s mindset has always been that of the free agent. The painter, writer or filmmaker by definition can only follow her own vision. She has to know (or teach herself) how to be self-defining, self-motivating, self-reinforcing, self-validating.
And yet artists have always run in schools. Paris in the 20s, Rome in the late 50s and early 60s, New York any time. I wish I had been part of a school. I once went to Paris and did nothing but ride the metro to the places Hemingway had mentioned in his short stories and in A Moveable Feast. I would’ve loved to have hung out with kindred spirits anywhere. It would’ve made me feel less alone.
Here’s what I found out about Hemingway by the way. In the short stories like “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” you felt like he was in some workingman’s café writing fiction with a half-inch stub of a pencil because he couldn’t afford even a crayon. Turns out the Closerie des Lilas and many of the other watering holes he mentioned are high-toned, high-cotton joints. Zinc bars, walnut-paneled walls. I was kinda depressed to discover this. I thought, “Hem was a swell!” I was disappointed.
Bottom line: I never could find a school. I never managed to hang out with anybody. Wherever the school was, I always got there twenty years after it had packed up and split.
But we need schools. We need the tribe. It’s too lonely being a one-man band all the time. Maybe the web is our school today. Maybe it’s Facebook, I don’t know. I’m missing that school too.
But to get a little more serious, the point of this post is that we need both sides of the dime. Each of us as individual writers, artists and entrepreneurs needs to be able to flip the switch and become the Incredible Hulk of self-discipline and self-sustenance. But we gotta be human beings too. The free agent mindset is too hard to sustain. In my own life I’ve probably arced way too far into that end of the pendulum swing. It’s not healthy. It’s not good for you.
Posted in Writing Wednesdays
By Callie Oettinger | Published: May 24, 2013
Who Owns the Art?
If ideas arrive on the wings of Muses, God, or whatever divine creator you believe in, does the final art belong to the artist or to that divine creator?
I believe in the Muse. I believe that she arrives, laden with ideas, upon that “thunderous train of air” Elizabeth Gilbert described when she talked about poet Ruth Stone:
It would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet. She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, “run like hell.” And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she’d be running and running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it “for another poet.” And then there were these times—this is the piece I never forgot—she said that there were moments where she would almost miss it, right? So, she’s running to the house and she’s looking for the paper and the poem passes through her, and she grabs a pencil just as it’s going through her, and then she said, it was like she would reach out with her other hand it. She and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. And in these instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact but backwards, from the last word to the first.”
I believe in the artist who latches onto an idea and nurtures it from seed to full-blown orchard.
And I believe that the artist’s final product belongs to her. The Muse may have gifted the seed, but the artist planted, nurtured and harvested it.
Posted in What It Takes | 12 Comments
By Shawn Coyne | Published: May 17, 2013
If you‘re like me, you want to clear your desk every night before you head home. You want to make sure that anything that might impair you that evening at home is off the to-do list and out of your mind. Then you’ll be able to relax without having unresolved work issues hanging over your head.
Now this is a very good strategy to rid you of repetitive paperwork/accounting/office management. But it can be the death knell for creative work. Forcing yourself into making a decision about a particular project just to get it off your desk will bite you in the ass later on. I can’t tell you how often I’m haunted by the consequences of my hurry up and move on decisions. If you see me walking down the street cringing, you’ll know I just remembered one.
And don’t forget business decisions are creative work too.
Whether or not you should make that call and press for better terms with that vendor may seem like a run of the mill decision, but it’s not. You need to creatively think about what it is that decision will do for you. You may win a marginal short term victory, but your vendor may hate you for being such a penny pincher that she does the least amount possible to keep you happy. Your inventory is mishandled so your customers return more goods and are dissatisfied etc.
Making the call and pressing for a reduced fee may be the right choice. But until you sit with the problem for a little while and map out the pros and cons of a decision, you’re running on “first draft-itis.” And no one should see your first draft of anything.
Why do we do this?
We do it to avoid confrontation. It deflates our anxiety, gives us “thank God I got that over with” relief.
It’s important to remember though that life is conflict. It just is. These are why stories, things built on the bedrock of conflict, are so important to us.
That doesn’t mean that it is all about screaming or passive aggressively getting your way. It means that in any human interaction, there is a clash of one kind or another. We communicate in order to figure out where we differ (where should we go to eat?) and then we confront the controversy and make it go away (how about a Mexican restaurant?). If you both love Mexican food, problem solved. If one of you wants Sushi, then there’s stress.
The courage to do nothing is all about remembering that you don’t know everything. You are capable of changing your ideas about things. You can hold two opposing thoughts in your head without jumping off a cliff. Really you can. You can hate taxes and also believe that the government should raise them to help people incapable of taking care of themselves.