Where, then, is the place to be, in relation to your work?
I have tried everything to get away from this discomfort, these turbulent tides, these cold winds that seem to blow from nowhere. This sense, always, that I should be doing more. Doing differently. But mainly, doing more.
Why more? Is it only the outsider's fantasy of the 'serious' artist's life, that knows nothing of the tides, of the rhythms, of the gaps and the frustrations, the dead ends, the non-productivity? David White is brilliant on this....
'But what if we have no recipe to consult? What if we have no grand architectural plans? What if we do not know what we are building or baking? And what if that lack of knowledge of what to do and where to go is debilitating, and therefore, as it is to most human beings, slightly, or for some, deeply depressing? What if we really do have a blank page?
...How do we proceed where there is actually not meant to be a plan, because we are actually working with a way of being, a slowly building conversation between what we want for ourselves and what we are most afraid of?
...Rilke asks us not to try to get around the feeling of stuckness itself but to see it as having as much right to a place in our life as our other free-flowing accomplishments. He sees anything that is real that presents itself to us not as a barrier but as a necessary next step. The inability to write is just as real as the ability to go full steam ahead to the bottom of the page. He asks us to go right into the exile and the sense of burial itself, as if our malady is not the visitation of loss itself but our inability to feel it fully. He suggests, in effect, that our ability to know what we want is first of all, often marked by an early and profound experience of its very absence. In a sense, he is saying that one way to come to love is to do without it for a long, long time.
...People who are serious about pursuing their vocation look for purchase, not for a map of the future or a guided way up the cliff. They try not to cling too closely to what seems to bar their way, but look for where the present point of contact actually resides. No matter what it looks like.
The point of contact is what allows us to take the next step.
...Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention. Just as people lost in the wilderness, on a cliff face or in a blizzard pay attention with a kind of acuity that they would not have had if they thought they knew where they were. Why? Because for those who are really lost, their life depends on paying real attention. If you think you know where you are, you stop looking.
...All those imagined guardian angels in their painted guises trying to help human beings through the millenia...'Thanks', we say to the descending angel, 'but you obviously don't understand my position. Look...I will show you, the next step cannot be the one I have to take, because it won't hold me. Please elevate me straight to the top, wherever that may be, and let's get this over with.'... That is the next step, their extended robed hand seems to say, there is no other step and no other way. But you need a different attitude (literally) and a different inclination (again, literally) to accomplish it.
...There is no possibility of pursuing a work without coming to terms with all the ways that it is impossible to do it. Feeling far away from what we want tells us one of two things about our work: we are at the beginning or that we have forgotten where we are going.
Remembering what we have forgotten is a first practical step home; the opening of the tidal gate that brings us into contact with the larger, stronger currents of existence. Exile and forgetting are natural state for most human beings, but so are remembering and recalling. All tasks are completed through cycles of visitation and absence. We should get used to this cycle and integrate it full into the way a work or a vocation is achieved and not hold ourselves to impossible standards that are often quite tedious, giftless states, in any case.
It may in fact be, that the very essence of what individuals have to offer the world is through a close understanding of their weaknesses and blind spots - blind spots in themselves or others. The very dynamic we confront when we feel it is impossible is the very dynamic we will put into the work, a dynamic that will make it distinctive and entirely our own.
...For both Mozart and Shakespeare, despite the breadth and volume of their work, more time was probably spent not writing than writing itself. A work is achieved not by creating a hermetic space sealed off from the world, but nel mezzo, in the middle of everything.
...In building a work life, people who follow rules, written or unwritten, too closely and in an unimaginative way are often suffocated by those same rules and die by them, quite often unnoticed and very often unmourned'.