Hinged .. How to Survive Art



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   Part of the point is to do as much art as you can and stay hinged. The temptation is to dali or bosch and pterodactyl into the paisley skies of a benign madness.

    One of the rottenest and stupidest things is that people have attached success in art to frilthy lucre. Pifffle. Start your damn art today and be awful at it in the beginning. Bloody persevere. Eventually you get better. I think everyone should have an art that no one will ever see so they can just putter happily making mudpies in it and not worry what the spouse or the neighbor or any bloody anybody will say. People are so horrifically judgmental. Please allow yourself to be in kindergarten.

    The tender bud of creativity is snuffed out by other people’s Idiot Perfectionist, and your own. Not that they have ever even probably done any foray into the forests of art. Or maybe you’ve got them in the one they have a knack for. They should be required to try something they ain’t so handy at. (Like baseball players trying to play golf. Or in a class of 7th & 8th graders I had 38 years ago – all the language-kids wrote this riveting prose and when they read their stories out loud, the non-verbal shrank back into their shells. There was this kid in the fartherest away back corner who doodled fabulous flame-burning cars all day. I had the inspiration to have everyone illustrate their stories. From being the helpless worst, this kid was the fabulous best. When I stood with him showing his brilliant drawings at the front of the class, everyone got a glimpse of how we are all gifted and all clumsy. I always honor most the folks who lurch out of their comfort zone and take a chance on that awkwardness of actually learning something entirely new.

    I will give the evidence another night, but I know as a teacher and as a learner, everyone can learn everything. Drawing was my one exception. And Dear Rafaello in one weekend tricked me into my drawing brain and there is my running shoe, laces, holes and all still on a page to prove that anybody can learn anything. Now I didn’t stick with that trick, but I know it’s there. And you can be tricked by a nifty teacher into learning anything if you just unclench your brain and say, “By Golly, I will persevere until I figure this out.” It may take a long time, but you can get Very Good.  

    When I finally figured out how to teach writing, every single kid ended up writing killer stuff. Because I learned how to trick them into being real, not derivative. There was one kid who wrote about stereo components every night. I couldn’t wait for the next installment. Of course you can’t give a damn about grammar and spelling in the early going – any clod can fix that. What you want is their reality on the page, not yours – their passion for stereo components.

    There only a few tricks to learning to write. First, you need to write every day. Make a vow. Put the whole date. (I have boxes of stuff that are dated May 6 or Nov 14. When I wrote it, I knew what year. Uhh, but now I have no clue. So 11.14.05 is good. I like to put 11.14.05 sunmon 2:14am. The day is necessary. The rest is idiosyncratic. Your vow is to write something every day even if it’s “I’m too darn tired to write.” I have never actually written that though I have permission in my vow.

    Now I’ve done this vow for about 30 years so I ought to have it down. (Because I write allegorical philosophy, I wanted to make sure what I was saying would turn out to be true in a life before I foisted it on the public. I’m in a foisting mode now at last.)

   So, write every day. And never write when you can’t write. If you can’t write it down, don’t think it. You’ll never get the pristine phrasing back. When I’m out and about, I’ll jot down a phrase or two, but I’ve trained myself not to indulge in turning the faucet on. I wait until I’m at a page or computer screen. Of course I often go out to write. That’s fine. I’m talking about when you’re driving or walking with no notebook. Observe. Don’t write in your head. Jotting is OK, but not full-fledged open the flood gates.

    You write every day. You don’t write when you can write it down.

    Some days you write literature. Some days you write glorified shopping lists. It’s the keeping faith with the Muse that counts. She (or he) ruthlessly believes in your honoring the relationship. You will be rewarded for faith. This is a grail quest and you got to be pure of heart. You don’t have to be smart or a natural sentence-slinger in the beginning. You do have to keep faith.

   Write for yourself and the Muse. Your horrid friends seldom have anything useful to say. You’ll find your writing friends along the way and they only whisper sweet somethings into your ear. Say what you like about someone’s work and elsewise Shut Up. You’d be amazed at how many ‘friends’ read with a machete and think they’re being ‘helpful.’ Oh Gods, ugh.

   Then, the best proofreading and editing you can do of your stuff is to read it out loud to yourself. Then you’ll see where it doesn’t work.

    Remember, editing is easy. Flame for ink, ice for ink, blood for ink – that’s the trick.



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3 thoughts on “Hinged .. How to Survive Art

  1. I used to think that writing would keep you from being a really dangerous cretin — but that was before Irving's ghastly tome.
    However, for the fairly sane, art will in retrospect have been one of your greatest joys.
    I need to tidy up this piece, cl, but the scattered advice will rustlessly stand the rain.
    If anyone needs a pep talk to start or jump-start their art whether knitting or writing or finger painting, I'm always happy to supply same.

  2. I find pogblog an on-going pep talk.
    You're kind of like Kant, but funny.
    I am reconsidering my duty to philosophy. I felt it had left me. But now I'm wondering if I left it and should start thinking about thinking again?

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