Is it good enough? What will the audience think? What will our closest friends think of what we made with our bare hands?
As an artist, fear and doubt pervade our craft. But it’s also what guides it. If we’re afraid to publish our work, that most likely means we should do it anyway.
‘This may not work’
A clap, likes, a positive comment – reassurance is not the end-goal. In fact, what should drive the artist is the fact that what they make may not work. Much of artist work is what they can get away with.
“Dance with the fear. Use fear as a compass to push you toward bringing your best creative work to life.” – Seth Godin
Art makes sense of and confounds everyday objects. The dislocation between reality and artist interpretation brings interestingness to a work.
The viewer chews on a piece, trying to get into an artist’s mind that’s still evolving and exploring different ways. Both maker and fan dig through their inner space to tie their thoughts for an object together.
What starts out as a personal project gets validated as a social one. Art is a chance to be a little more understood. But it is not finite; rather it’s a perpetual experiment in altering the tones.
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The structure of a stream lies within its anti-structure, the unpredictable and chaotic movement of its flow; fresh water slithering over rocks, persisting downward all the way into the mouth of the river.
Streams can only perform their function if nature permits such fluidity, the human renter backs off, and it swims unimpeded; flexing a dynamic energy so essential to the information Earth collects.
Vincent Van Gogh was a nobody. He only sold one piece of art while he was alive and it was to his brother!
But that’s who we all are at the core — small sprinkles on Earth in a vast universe. If the solar eclipse was any reminder, the cosmos operate whether humans exist or not.
Sure, we like to think we’re special. The neurological software in our head makes accomplishments feel significant. But as Zat Rana puts it: “We’re nothing more than a fraction of a ripple in an infinite sea of entropy.”
Aren’t we just all bits of code blindly riding the opportunity of free will?
Art is just one instrument for coping with such human triviality. It’s a narcotic for nobodies. But so are distractions. The sterile glow of computer screens and pocket rectangles manufacture ‘busyness.’ Human minds have succumbed to habit design, never mind TV and shopping.
Given such meaninglessness, we have no choice but to seize the day. Perhaps Van Gogh was right, the real thrill of life is showing through our work what a nobody has in their heart.
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
One of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, Robert Frank is perhaps most renown for his 1958 book The Americans which featured 83 photos from Frank’s journey across the U.S. documenting race and material consumption in American life.
In an interview with Time Magazine, Japanese author Naoki Higashida reveals his favorite number. His answer is both complex and beautiful:
I’ve never really thought about my favorite, but if pushed, my answer would be 3. The number 1 is the most important. It feels like proof that something is there. Then again, zero is the most amazing discovery. The concept of nothingness is proof of human civilization. After 1 comes 2 in order of importance. The number 2 lets us divide things and put numbers in order. These three numbers (0, 1 and 2) would have been sufficient. As a number, 3 is enchanting. It was created even though it wasn’t needed. Perhaps it was born out of creativity?
Digits transcend each other. Like words, each one fits into the fabric of a larger numerical system.
Knowledge can be a hindrance. The more we know, the more likely we’re to hesitate in times of execution.
So the overthinking basketball player misses a wide open layup, the tennis player misses an easy return, or the painter or writer can’t seem to get their inspiration to convert on a blank canvas.
Stalling is a symptom of facing the resistance. When we try too hard to be perfect, we may do nothing at all.
So how can we stem the tide of excess contemplation?
One of the ways to think less author Flann O’Brien once said was to act “calculatedly stupid” and to enjoy what we’re doing. As Vincent Van Gogh put it: “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile.”
We are at our best when we’re relaxed and instinctive, free from the chaos of the monkey mind.
Unthinking is the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation. Its power is not confined to sport: actors and musicians know about it too, and are apt to say that their best work happens in a kind of trance.
So do the work and let go, let God. Let inspiration be free-floating perspiration.