Wednesday, 21 July 2010

doing and not doing, again

Some of not doing what you want is procrastination, brought about by fear of failure, confrontation with the thing that's so important to you. But, despite all the books so helpfully making suggestions about how to 'overcome blocks' etc. it seems to me that non-producing might sometimes be as important as producing. Not acting as important as acting, non-doing as important as doing.

Firstly, because of the need for food. If you haven't had enough food, and you make yourself sit down and do something, what results can send you into a further sense of hopelessness and futility. The paint or marks seem lifeless. The image screams - you see? More of this rubbish. Give it up. Though I do believe that eight out of ten times you do need to simply stop dithering and start doing, there's this edge to it that can suck the life out of what comes out.

Secondly, I, at least, need space somehow, before I can draw or paint. Perhaps it's the space that simply forces action, in the end, out of having nowhere else to run to. But it has also felt to be more than that. In certain environments I've been unable to resist the need to draw. Living in the Himalayas, for example, drawings started appearing because I simply could not resist the shape of monsoon clouds over the valley any longer. As well as novelty, and intense natural beauty, however, at that time I also had new space - teaching only two hours a day, and that quite often cancelled. For a while I felt guilty that I wasn't earning my keep more diligently. Then it began to dawn on me that space was ok. That I didn't need to be harried and pressed into every tiny moment of every day. And then out came the drawings.


  1. Is it really fear of failure do you think? And failure of what or how? Isn't the procrastination a kind of failure in itself - perhaps a self perpetuating one even?

    If failure is the mother of success as so very many sayings, quotes and truisms seem to suggest, then surely it's good to fail (or succeed obviously). It's good to fail in the "pursuit" of success. But then why the procrastination? Why do we - and I definitely include myself in this too - why do we persist in this merry go round of deferral?

    I'd hazard a guess that the answer's in that first image, or rather embedded in its text - it's a fear of the expectations of Meaning (with a capital "M"). Meaning: that all powerful but unseen and unspoken deity of artists, to whom we sacrifice ourselves and for the neglect of whom we feel a crippling guilt and before whom we are struck speechless with our own inarticulacy.

    Hyperbole - I certainly hope so - good ol' failure's much easier !-)



  2. Hmm - what does it mean when your smiley get's chopped in half?

    Ouch ;-(

  3. Oh lord, tell me more (posted my Maisel quote before I read your response)... Meaning. Yes, I suppose that's right. Is it that we're trying to somehow know 'its' meaning before meaning itself has had a chance to find itself in the process, out of the actual doing?

    I think in a way this is what I'm trying to rid myself of, at least in terms of the weight of art, and its history. And yet even finding permission in oneself to produce things that you don't expect to have those weighty meanings seems to be hard. It's as if I struggle to permit myself to play, to let things wander out in the form they choose for themselves. I'm in there with, oh, look, how frivolous is this begonia; oh, it's illustrative; oh it looks like a 1930s woodcut before the marks have hardly hit the page.

    No wonder the process struggles to happen.It's sick to death of being killed before it even has a chance to arrive...

  4. Rem acu tetigisti. - literally: "You've touched the thing with a needle."

    (Sorry - I've just been reading a dictionary of latin tags and phrases and this one seemed to fit the bill perfectly).



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