Newsflash: Excellence Requires Work

I do a bunch of things fairly well, some just so-so, and what I can’t do well I can usually figure out.  Or at least I’ll TRY.  Because there’s a lot of reward and enjoyment in conquering a new challenge, picking up a new skill.  On the other hand there’s some stuff that I just can’t seem to grok so I phone a friend before I start banging my head against a wall.  I call that KNOWING WHEN TO GET HELP.  Of all the skills I have this is probably the most valuable on a day-to-day basis.  Why figure out how to build a rocket to jump the Grand Canyon when you can just call up Evel Knievel and ask? 

Case in point:  As much as I’d like to think I can easily create music from scratch I really can’t, at least not now.  Sure, I can create a riff  but a fully integrated piece of music seems beyond me.  Like there’s something I’m not understanding or seeing – a blind spot.  Some might call that the talent gap.  I don’t even want to get into writing lyrics…

Don’t know if you’ve heard Lippy Kids by Elbow, which, to me, seems like it’s pretty much about  living through those golden summer times of our youth where anything and everything was possible – at least that’s how I read it… anyway, here’s an excerpt:

Lippy kids on the corner again

Lippy kids on the corner again

Settling like crows

Though I never perfected the simian stroll

The cigarette senate was everything then

Do the know those days are golden

Build a rocket boys

Build a rocket boys!

One long June

I came down from the trees

and kerbstone cool

You were a freshly painted angel

Walking on walls

Stealing booze and hour-long kisses

And nobody knew me at home

Admittedly I’m nutty for this band but point is, HOW DOES ANYONE EVEN THINK THAT KIND OF STUFF UP!?!??! 
I find this on an order of excellence that I’ve never come close at in anything I can recollect.  Now, I’m not being down on myself or anyone else – there’s a huge value, to yourself and society, in being very good in several things without being excellent in any one.  For one I actually think it’s key to being a good project manager.  And there are certainly some folks who are naturally better at some tasks than other folks.  Factoring in innate ability I think it really comes down to a level of focus – an ability to run down to a point of exhaustion and put every ounce of what you have in.  Sort of like being, um…anti-lazy?  The word for that escapes me at the moment.  Dedicated is maybe the right one.  Maybe invested?  Anyway, I tend to bail before that point because usually that final mile seems harder than the twenty four you just ran to get there and 96% percent is good enough, right? Funny that I should use a running analogy because that’s the most recent experience I have where there can be as many hurdles in your head as there are in the real world but once you’ve already done something once half the head game goes poof!

In any case I’ve been living through a pretty golden time of late – experiencing new things, being in new places both geographically and relationship wise – and I think I’m ready to “buckle down”, as my mom would put it, and really put in some… work?  But not in the way prior where I had creative itches that absolutely needed scratching, that’s compulsion, more like a picking my own creative course because waiting for unmanaged urges to drive you forward is like waiting for the wind to lift your sails when you’re at sea.  You can be waiting an awfully long time… or you can break out the oars and start rowing.  So I’m going to pick one project from the multitude in my head and run it down to completion.  Be… anti-lazy. We’ll see how that goes.  🙂

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Creative Doldrum – A good thing?

Recently I was at a new acquaintance’s art gallery show and we found some time to catch up. Well, ok, first I grilled him on his creative process behind a particular painting. Really an odd way to open a discussion now that I think of it – when I’m processing an image or what have you (and I ‘m not saying the results are grand) the changes I make lead the image to look or feel… right(?) or I continue to work on it until it does. Or I give up and maybe come back to it later. It’s not any kind of logical path thing I can spell out along the way and often I can’t even remember all of what I did or undid to get there. I dunno why I thought it would any different for a painter so was completely surprised by the lack of a cogent response. I mean, he’s been painting for a really long time, surely he has some by the numbers process… well, no!

In the course of our discussion he’d asked how I was doing and I said, I’d met someone, blah, blah, blah, my photo output had slowed way down (note: It occurrs to me now that I may have “shot out” my environment and really need new vistas). Then he asked what I did when I was not doing photography, and I said, well, I write(!)… but not much at the moment.

Despite work and having a really awesome new person in my life – add to that my duties as a dad – I still do have some time to create. Something. Anything. But I haven’t been.

But that’s not what I said to Max, I’d given him a cloud of things, good things, that were going on with me and some vagaries about creativity and from that he plucked out, oh, so you’re in love. And I said…
Well, yeah.

It’s pretty interesting how he connected those dots. Maybe it’s a cliché, I dunno. Now I’m wondering if my creativity really is inversely proportional to my happiness. I’ve been cruising along for the last several months, fairly stress free, enjoying things as they come – yet watchful and cautious because life can change up on you in a heartbeat or less – and vegetating creatively. I’ve frequently had topics I could blog about pop in my head only to forget them later. The spark fizzles, I s’pose or I can’t maintain my own interest in the subject, or something else happens that holds my interest.

… oh, so you’re in love. And I said…
Well, yeah.

In terms of my current relationship, it’s definitely not something I hide, quite the opposite, but this slump predates that…
… It hit me that I may be closer than I’ve ever been to being perfectly happy with myself and living a fairly drama free life – that’s really something, ain’t it? If the trade for less thrash is having the creative itch die down… well I’m pretty sure I can learn to live with it. For a short time. Until it pisses me off. 😉