I know that I stopped thinking about extreme grief as the sole vehicle for great art when the grief started to take people with it. And I get it. The tortured artist is the artist that gets remembered for all time, particularly if they if they either perish or overcome. But the truth is that so many of us are stuck in the middle. So many of us begin tortured and end tortured, with only brief bursts of light in between, and I’d rather have average art and survival than miracles that come at the cost of someone’s life.Hanif Abdurraqib, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us
“I reached out for something to attach myself to—and I found nothing. But in reaching out, in the effort to grasp, to attach myself, left high and dry as I was, I nevertheless found something I had not looked for—myself. I found that what I had desired all my life was not to live—if what others are doing is called living—but to express myself. I realized that I had never had the least interest in living, but only in this which I am doing now, something which is parallel to life, of it at the same time, and beyond it. What is true interests me scarcely at all, nor even what is real; only that interests me which I imagine to be, that which I had stifled every day in order to live.”Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
“I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”Ta-Nehisi Coates
Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.Jack London
4. Everyone needs a dragon day. In the middle of my burned-out period of the challenge, I started sculpting little dragons out of clay, just for fun. I did this on Sundays, which is my permanent day off from painting (thirty-in-thirty challenge or not, I still wasn’t planning to paint on Sunday). When I was talking to my sister about how I was feeling so uninspired about painting, but so excited about making cute little dragons, she started calling Sundays my “dragon day.” And I liked that idea so much that I now call Sundays my dragon day, whether I’m sculpting a little dragon or putting together a photo album or baking a new yummy treat. A dragon day is a day when you refill your creative well; it’s a day to do anything creative that you want, just for fun, with no expectations that anything will come of it other than the joy you get from the act of creating.
This reminds me of the author Tim Wu’s piece in which he observes that today’s Instagrammable edited real-life era has pressured people into hobbies only where they can excel. Instead, he implores people to enjoy a hobby for the hobbies sake.
The exploration of imperfect creativity produces a raw pleasure one can’t find in meticulous planning.