“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, wether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
This bleak prognostication of artistic life is, well, off-putting. But it’s a calling, much like any other calling. And when a calling drives you, pushes you to engage it, no matter what life may throw in your path, then it’s a calling that you must fulfill.
When driving towards your goal, expect to be miserable at some point. No great achievement ever came easy, or with no cost.
The ever-changing Friday lineup of things that made me say, “Hmm…”.
So consider this:
It goes on to report that Philadelphia, where Congress was meeting, didn’t send out a militia, though the crowd “were wantonly pointing their muskets to the windows of the hall of Congress.” Philadelphia felt the disturbance didn’t merit response. Congress next met in New Jersey, but there decided that they “needed a meeting place under its own control and insulated from local political pressures and from such threats as drunken soldiers.”
England may very well be on its inevitable decline – at least, if you pay attention to the legend of the ravens. According to legend, possibly dating back to around the 17th Century, The Tower of London must always be home to six ravens, lest the tower fall, and England with it. Currently, the Raven Queen Merlina is missing, presumed dead. However, the raven master did keep one extra on standby, so the requisite six still reside within the tower.
Speaking of decline, I’ve been wanting to cover this particular point for a week now. The event at the Capitalon January 6th brought to mind something I’d read before (and, eerily, the tv show Designated Survivor – I’m happy that connection didn’t go any further). So, I pulled a book off my shelf, to read this: “The authority of the United States having been this day grossly insulted by the disorderly and menacing appearance of a body of armed soldiers about the place within which Congress was assembled, and the peace of this city being endangered by the mutinous disposition of the said troops…” The book was Washington Goes to War, by David Brinkley. The passage, a Congressional resolution in response to a 1783 event comprising Revolutionary soldiers demanding payment for wartime service.
And yet, over two hundred years later, Congress was once again threatened by a disorderly and menacing crowd. This time, however, in the building that was supposed to be sanctuary.
A few years ago I was introduced to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Actually, like five years ago now. Twice I’ve tried to complete the 12 week program of exercises and artist dates, though twice I’ve fallen short of the twelve weeks. Here, in Vogue, journalist Sarah Spellings lays out the basics of that program.
Hints of FM signal from one of Jupiter’s moons, according to the Juno space probe. Probably not getting Top 40, but you could hear little bursts of what I would guess sounds like static.
There’s no small amount of ideas and opinions in the world. Everywhere you turn you’re able to pick out some concept that someone has had. You have the ability to take that concept, use it. Or you can discard it.
In the moment, you’re only certain of the possibility. That it may or may not be useful. Hindsight is 20/20, and that’s the only way to verify whether something was as beneficial as you hoped it’d be.
However, it’s important to not let past failures dictate your decision-making too much. Being afraid to jump at a new opportunity is just as bad, or worse, than failed attempts.
We don’t notice it, but suddenly things that made sense to us no longer seem to. Our tastes have altered, and now the humors we enjoyed no longer seem as funny. The thrills we sought now might feel too dangerous. The decisions we made no longer seem the best course of action.
But what is it that’s changing? We’re basically the same, biologically speaking. Over the course of a few years, thoughts and worldview can change drastically. Maybe we stay relatively consistent as to values and morals, but everything else is subject to transformation. Even values and morals can grow and evolve.
Where does this change stem from? The seeming solution is that, the more we weigh situations and past decisions, the more we have that background behind us, the most data we have to conceptualize current situations in light of those past ones. We’re more informed, even if the information is flowing at a subconscious level. Once again, it seems like it comes down to data.
And, as I’ve stated before, the more data one has, the better decisions one can make.
There’s a quietness that we’ve lost, a quietness that used to carry us through our days. The joys of a good book, a quiet evening, the fireplace and conversation as entertainment for an evening in. Everything is louder now, faster, more complicated, and more dense.
It’s been turned up, and much of it is owing to the speed of information through technology. The instant something happens, it can be transmitted worldwide. But it isn’t just one transmission, and it’s not just one recipient. It gets amplified the longer it goes on, the more hands it passes through.
Information can be turned way up.
We’ve been grappling with information overload for at least the past decade, and still are learning to come to terms with it. The only thing certain is – it doesn’t seem very likely to have a dimmer switch on it.
Decision-making can be said to be a process whereby we choose a) the best option for us or, b) what maybe we perceive to be the best option available. Quite often, however, the optics of choices we make are eschewed.
Choices are based on the information we have available to us at the time. The more information, the more fact, the better the choices we make.
“Great art stretches the taste. It doesn’t follow tastes.” – Steve Jobs
Sometimes it’s possible to know that the piece you’re working on, the design you’re creating, whatever – sometimes you know that it will be well-received. Mostly, though, it’s a huge gamble. The most prepared you can be is looking at it with fresh eyes, and thinking that this is something you’d appreciate.
Universal acceptance is almost non-existent. All creatives inherently know this, and yet when those negative reviews, sometimes scathing, come in, it feels like a personal defeat. One negative review can outshine a hundred positive ones.
And there are times when the art comes to early, only to be appreciated later. Look at Van Gogh, whose success during his lifetime was virtually non-existent. A popular anecdote is that he only sold one painting in his lifetime, though it has been revealed that it’s an exaggeration.
But, ultimately, you’re creating for the sake of creating. It may be commercially successful, or it may not. But when you have something that has to be given to the world, the only thing that you really can do is create it.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger, the country takes another step towards… I don’t know, anarchy? Divisiveness, at the very least. And so, we’re left to pick up pieces in such a way that we have to be careful how we handle them – they are still fragile, and it could break even more egregiously.
The nation, this democracy, is an experiment, one that generations have believed in and worked towards perfecting. There is no claim to perfection, of course, but the attempts can be made, and appreciated.
I like the words of Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse: “When something’s ugly, talking about beauty isn’t just permissible, it’s obligatory.”
The belief I have, and that we all should have, is that next week will be better. And we can work to make it so.