Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 2004-2005

There’s a profile question on an online dating service that I (hate to) use, asking how you want to spend your retirement. Amongst the crappy preset answers like “Sailing the seven seas” and “Living in the country” there is also “Finally writing that novel”. 

Ugh.

Aside from the implication that you should defer your dreams for decades —the “slave/save/retire” approach as Tim Ferriss calls it — it also casts the act of creativity in an interesting light.

Are you waiting for the perfect moment to make your art? Or do your thing? Or shake that thing? The day when you finally have your own studio, or shed, or time to write said novel? 

Well, don’t.

There’s never going to be a perfect time to create. 

Writer and poet Charles Bukowski put it more succinctly than I ever could in his repost to a woman who was waiting for “Air and light and time and space”: 

”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
way
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to
create.”

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
welfare,
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented,
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses
for.

And I’m including myself in this little pep talk because I do things like go and get inspired at art exhibitions, then buy paint and paintbrushes and leave it sitting around for months unused. Maybe that’s why people spend more time at gallery shops than they do looking at the actual exhibition. I don’t know.

Whatever it is you want to paint or write or make or sell, attitude is as important as inspiration. 

If you combine motivation with passion, you end up with grit. Which is a good solid American word for a make shit happen approach to life.

Or as painter Chuck Close put it:

Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.


Posted to: Life