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The courage to practice art

kurt_vonnegut

Yesterday, I was working on a painting for a dear friend that she commissioned from me. I’ve been painting, tweaking, looking, experiment and trying so hard on this piece. It just will not come together. I was so frustrated that I just about broke down and cried. Actually, when Paul came in and asked how I was doing, a few tears did fall.

I watched a video short with Ta-Nehisi Coates. In it he says:

I think breakthroughs come from putting an inordinate amount of pressure on yourself and seeing what you can take and hoping you can grow some new muscles. It’s not really that mystical. Repeated practice over and over again. Then, suddenly, you become something that you had no idea you could really be. Or you quit the field and say, “I suck”. That could happen too. But hopefully you have a breakthrough.

I strongly believe that writing is an act of courage. It’s almost an act of physical courage.

Oh man. I that internal pressure can make me want to give up. I have high standards that I have been unable to meet. The internal shame and self-censure are brutal on my heart. I want out. But, if I walk away, I am unseen and unmet… both by myself and those around me. That’s not tolerable either.

So, the question becomes, how long can I stick with that feeling and keep on pushing through it. Sometimes this work is so hard. But, the only antidote is to show up. Show up. Show up again.

I haven’t found my breakthrough yet. The thing I’m remembering as I am writing this is that this is okay too. I keep pushing forward for that breakthrough. But the work I do, while not breaking through, is every bit as important.

Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

- Kurt Vonnegut

And so, I’m off to make some art. I’m going to even if it lousy art.

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