Guesswork is artwork

The dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille said:

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.

Leaping in the dark can leave you bruised. Inventing stories and acting on them can have you jumping to conclusions. But leaping in the dark can also take you somewhere you never imagined. Guesswork is artwork. And besides, isn’t it the job of writers, especially fiction writers, to invent stories and jump to conclusions? Continue reading “Guesswork is artwork”

When you show up for your work, your work shows up for you

In their classic book on making art (or avoiding the process), Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland outline the merits of using your work as a litmus test for your commitment:

Look at your work and it tells you how it is when you hold back or when you embrace. When you are lazy, your art is lazy; when you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in its pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes.

How are you holding back or embracing your work at the moment? How can you increase your commitment to your project, or accept that you’re flogging a dead horse?

It hurts to be present

Humans tend to favour analogical reasoning—we regularly look for the similarities between two or more unlike things or systems (compare reasoning from first principles). But when is relying on analogy a problem, and does doing so prevent us from living in the moment and engaging deeply with our writing?

In Rob Walker’s new book, which is full of strategies for paying attention, he quotes the poet Marie Howe: “It hurts to be present.” He explains that line more fully in a recent episode of Hurry Slowly, when he refers to making “metaphor-free observations.”

Rob believes that inexperienced writers use metaphor as “a distancing act.” But, he says,

to be truly present requires punching through these kinds of distancing techniques that we use as a matter of course, and be really in touch with what’s actually there.

We know that being present (or mindful) can result in more happiness, connection, innovation, and productivity. But being present is not always easy, and can expose us to uncomfortable truths—that’s why it hurts. Continue reading “It hurts to be present”