Sunday, July 19, 2015

"We Trained Hard...."

Anyone that has worked for corporate or unionized America, artistic or not, will recognize the meaning of this quote: “We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.” — Roman satirist Petronius Arbiter who lived in Rome between 27 - 66 A.D. Known more for being a biting satirist, many of his comments had more than a ring of truth and plenty of bite. It was this that got him killed. Its very sad that words written 2,000 years ago mean the same today.

Look familiar?
Sound familiar? It can be your art teacher, gallery owner that represents you, the media, online store, friends and family. You are on the cusp of a breakthrough and someone, usually wanting to make a name for themselves, comes up with a new strategy, that I might add, won't work. Read the comic Dilbert sometime or read the story about the creation of Ford's Edsel.

“I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to sit quietly in his room.” — Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662). I must admit, my new and most unusual ideas come from sleep, I'll wake up with the problem solved or in the midst of doing something mindless, like taking a shower, just lying quietly trying to take a nap. Meditation never worked for me. I just fall asleep.

The 19th Century American writer Henry David Thoreau said it best though: ‘It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?’ Don’t confuse activity with results. There is no reason to do a good job with something you shouldn’t do in the first place.”

Have you ever done this? Ever? Its so easy to just do something. After all this has been drilled into us from time we were kids. "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." Artists or anyone who creates has times in their creative process when we just do something or as Charles Munger says, ‘We’ve got great flexibility and certain discipline in terms of not doing some foolish thing just to be active – discipline in avoiding just doing anything just because you can’t stand inactivity.’

I don't know about you, but I DO feel guilty when I am in, shall we say, a hibernating mode. Why are you not painting you ask yourself? The paint, the item that idea you wanted to try. Where are they? When I had my Etsy store I spent more time on that than I had ever done when I had my own graphics business. For all that time and labor, I was making maybe 10¢ an hour. Truly this is unacceptable on any level. At least for now, I am glad to have that off my back. Oh, I paint still but it is not the driving force that it once was. Truth be told, I am having more fun and not so afraid of having a failure. As I've written, even a failure to me is a learning process leading me, overtime, to try what I've learned from my disaster. Given as a gift, the receiver has no idea of what you think. If they like it, all the better.

What do you want to accomplish? As Warren Buffett says, ‘There’s no use running if you’re on the wrong road.’ Buffet may not be an artist but he hit the creative process dead on. We are guilty of running and often we don't really know where we are going. 

If you feel guilty about periods of inactivity, or worse, seem able to break out of a cycle of inactivity, maybe there is a cause. Could it be you are pushing yourself too much? There's a reason companies are required to give their employees vacations. Europeans have up to 5 weeks a year. Northern Europeans with a shorter work day as well are as productive or more so than Americans. Oddly, Americans who work both overtime or stay in the office (often doing not much) are afraid to take even the days they are guaranteed. The vacation is a time to recharge, to do something else, see something else even think something else. These quotes are words of wisdom from the past. What is sad, is that nothing has changed!

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