Friday, September 21, 2007

Humble Pie

I doubt there is an artist out there who doesn't know that the next thing they do could be a complete bust. We live with it. We try to beat it; we try to get around it. We can't. Of course, it cuts both ways. There are two sides to what we face; the glass half full and glass half empty of it. Tabula Rasa; abyss. Fresh start; bottomless pit/fall of dispair.

John Ashberry complains about how as a poet he has to start over every time and every time can be a disaster and that this is hell; novelists get to tinker securely with the more solid ground of a work in progress. But I don't think so. Even with a novel in progress under your belt you still face the blank page every day.

I like to admit I don't know what I'm doing, but nobody really knows. Seriously, who knows? This keeps us real. As soon as you think you're in the zone, you're out of it. Pride comes before a fall.

I work in serials. These allow me to face the abyss. Bit of a crutch, but it gets me there. An excuse to make a painting I always say. I work away until I feel like there is nothing left of something, and then I start again. But still, if I do something where I think, yes, wow, I'm sailing free, well, before you know it I have a death spiral on my hands.

They talk about it in baseball all the time. Not just for hitters, but pitchers too. You think you have your best stuff and you get lit up; you think you won't be able to find the plate and you throw a no-hitter. I heard the Indians manager, Eric Wedge, talk about it, staying real, assuming nothing, taking nothing for granted, when the media wanted him to talk about their recent success: he said he had to live what he preached.

When I was a drawing teacher I had only one thought I wanted to impress on my students: don't assume anything and you'll do fine. Never think you know. Look and see.

Assuming anything is our first mistake. Do we want to be able to assume things. Of course. Does it make us secure. Of course. But if you can assume as little as possible, and take nothing for granted, well then, you can be right there, and give yourself the best chance in any situation, and best of all, you can be truly grateful. Assuming things rules out learning and gratitude, two of life's greatest gifts.

How do we do this thing? One breath, one heart beat at a time.

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