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It’s rough and ruthless, but criticism saves you time. People aren’t trying to be mean. They’re just trying to keep you from banging your head into the same wall.
Scientists can’t continue publishing the same paper over and over again. Apple can’t just release another iPhone without drastic improvements. As they say, sameness destroys creativity.
Instead of giving up, what critical advice does is redirect you. Writes Tom Standage in Writing on the Wall:
“Adam Smith. He wrote much of his book in the British Coffee House, his base and postal address in London and a popular meeting place for Scottish intellectuals, among whom he circulated chapters of his book for criticism and comment.”
In search of a little audience, you get the feedback you need to keep iterating until we get it right. Naturally, the process is frustrating for all artists. Writes Fred Kaplan on John Coltrane’s experimental determination.
In a backstage interview with Coltrane during intermission at the Stockholm concert, a local jazz DJ noted that some critics were finding his new sound “unbeautiful” and “angry,” then asked, “Do you feel angry?” Coltrane replied, in a gentle, deliberative tone, “No, I don’t,” adding, “The reason I play so many sounds, maybe it sounds angry, it’s because I’m trying so many things at one time, you see? I haven’t sorted them out. I have a whole bag of things that I’m trying to work through and get the one essential.”
The fear of messing up is good quality control. The feedback loop is a critical ingredient to success. Otherwise, you may just be making something that never sticks.
People don’t like thinking. It’s painful. Like denoting page numbers, you have to get your brain’s cells to assemble in an attempt to establish some order.
There’s a reason why there are so few philosophers and so many people attending entertainments. It is easier to sit back and play, to consume in our default setting rather than tinkering with abstract trains of thought.
Vividly-coloured and shaped like stars, ships and castles, several churches in Kerala appear to defy one of the basic tenets of architecture as set by the influential American architect Louis Sullivan – “form follows function”.
We give anxiety power, and the right brain consciousness loves to conjure up imaginary bombs of self-destruction.
What if instead of keeping any worries in we could express them through outward movement, some form of art.
The art of fiction, the art of underwater basket weaving, the art of rolling dice — whatever you fancy as a release from the prison of unnecessary worry.
Keep in mind that anxiety is not a prerequisite for making stuff. All creativity is a form of prayer.
There are plenty of genuinely happy artists that express themselves through their work. I’d say Paul McCartney is one of them, for instance. But there’s plenty on the opposite side of the spectrum like Francis Bacon or Vincent Van Gogh, whose paintings allowed them to release inner demons.
Transmuting either happiness or anxiety into a blank canvass helps prevent any excess storage.
“The talent to make art accompanies the need for that art; they arrive together.” — John Berger, Here is Where We Meet
Imagine you are eighty years old – assuming you’re not eighty already, that is; if you are, you’ll have to pick an older age – and then complete the sentences ‘I wish I’d spent more time on…’ and ‘I wish I’d spent less time on…’. This turns out to be a surprisingly effective way to achieve mortality awareness in short order. Things fall into place. It becomes far easier to follow Lauren Tillinghast’s advice – to figure out what, specifically, you might do in order to focus on life’s flavours, so as to improve your chances of reaching death having lived life as fully and as deeply as possible.