when art is a long time coming

okay, so it's not basketball ...

It can feel as if it takes a lifetime to identify and produce your art.  I sometimes say, only half-jokingly, I’m still getting there, but one day I’ll declare, “This is what I must do,” and promptly expire.

Some identify their art at an early age; I’ve already admitted I didn’t know what it was at forty five years of age.

And just listen out for how many times you’ll hear phrases like “natural talent” or “they were born to do this or that”.  And we feel we don’t have it and we weren’t.

Two things about talent, and it’s probably one thing, really.

1) Whilst some people may be born with an advantage over others (sprinters with more fast muscle – there are two types of muscle – or basketball players who are 6’8″, nature doesn’t think in terms of athletics or basketball or banking or music or politics or art).  What matters is putting in the thousands of hours of shaping something extraordinary around our particular curiosity and fascination – which may begin with our early exposure to something: Mozart to music, chess for the Polgar sisters, or golf for Tiger Woods – but nothing happens without thousands of hours of practice.*  First thing, deep or deliberate practice.

2) Turn up every day.  At the end of the day, as it at the beginning (and everything in-between), it’s about hard work, in the kind of practice which is stretching, failing, and frustrating and, yes, monotonous (which is why you really have to love something; which is why you can’t turn a Weakness into a Strength).**  The joy of your art is what brings you to the hard place of producing what has captured your heart.  Which probably means, the second thing is deep practice too.

If you’re waiting for inspiration, you’ve already had it.  If you turn up and play with the things which matter to you through practice, you might just be surprised at what emerges.


(*I wonder whether my isolation from other children when not at school meant I had to develop my imagination – I love ideas and thinking about the future.)

(**I love the detail in Annie Dillard’s writing about nature and life, and imagine her writing in some pleasant space with sunshine coming in through a large picture window through which she observes the world.  I was staggered to read her description of how she’d lock herself away in a cinder-block room, painted mustard yellow, pull down the blind, and pin a picture of the outside world on it.)

2 thoughts on “when art is a long time coming

  1. Cheers, Ricky. I hope folk check in with you later in the week when you get this posted. I was reading your stuff on Elgar and such, earlier, and like how his wife was a champion for him.

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