The Tao of Work

Contrary to popular belief, artists don’t go to the studio only when they’re in the right frame of mind. There are many times that I as an artist am not in the mood when starting, but I have found that in making myself work nonetheless, the mood grows, and before I know it, excitement and possibilities unfold in the course of the working. To work in isolation as most artists do, requires discipline, and by setting a regular schedule for myself, the regular rhythm of daily involvement becomes that much easier to follow. Not surprisingly, the act of ‘showing up’ has a marvelous affect on my productivity.

So many people believe that to be a successful artist, one must have loads of talent. But I don’t think that’s true. The will to work plays a much bigger part in an artist’s development than talent, so to rely on talent too heavily without doing the work is a fool’s game. The more I do, the easier it becomes to do, and the less likely I am to become stuck. I know that to bring forth my best offering, I must work as much as I can. There is no right way to start – you make a choice to leap in, and then do it. It’s an act of courage because the odds don’t appear to be in your favor if you believe that anything you do must be good or its not worth doing. To arrive at such a conclusion is about as absurd as thinking a musician must play perfectly from the start, or that an athlete wiill perform perfectly on the first try. Yet we tolerate wrong notes and countless repetitions from practicing musicians, and cheer athletes on as they try to improve their games. Why then be so unreasonably demanding of yourself?

“Artists who seek perfection in everything achieve it in nothing,”, the painter Delacroix so famously said. So why worry about what will happen? You will most certainly make some truly terrible art. But that’s okay – and even quite necessary; all artists make bad work. Stay the course, and rely on your will to work to push you through inevitable frustrations. In time you will see that bad work evolves into better work, eventually ending in the good work you aspire to. There is no shortcut.


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