Art And Practice As Fear

Mankind has come a long way from primitive existence on the savanna. Back then, fear was an important resource. Wild animals, weather, food, shelter—all of these were constant difficulties to overcome in order to keep existing. Fear was necessary to help keep us alive. It served a purpose in making us move away from danger, seeking safety. These dangers were very real.

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today, much of the perceived dangers are not real. Yet we perceive them as real because the fear reflex is deeply embedded into our DNA. For artists, we often perceive fear from one source or another, and it paralyzes us. Fear can easily stop us in our tracks.

As mankind evolved socially, and moved more towards a collective society, one of our main fears became not being accepted by a group or collective. No one wants to appear different, and thus not a part of the group (herd). Sometimes this reflexive fear is difficult for artists to move past, yet the nature of being an artist is being differen…

Art And Practice As Expression

Who is the Real You?

Are you being your authentic self? Are you creating art that represents that self? Some of the best advice I've ever gotten as a writer is, write the book you want to read. Think about that.

Write the book you want to read

It's so simple and can apply to any artistic practice: dance the dance you want to dance, paint the picture you want to see, write the song you want to hear, etc. 

This idea is great if you have no idea of what to do. Ask yourself, “What would I want to read/listen to/watch/etc?” Most of us probably have a list of things that we wish someone else had written, recorded, filmed, etc. Look at that list and find something that YOU could do.

I've always been a writer, since I was a little kid. But my “professional” writing career started after I read a magazine article and said to my wife, “I could write better than this.” Here response was, “Then why don't you?” I then put together a set of proposals and sent them off to that magazine. Th…

Art And Practice As Boredom

Art is hard work

The public usually only sees the glamorous part: the performance, the exhibition, the parties celebrating our work. Being an artist of any type is one big fantasy that seems real to so many. And we may have even bought into the fantasy ourselves, having decided to pursue our art because we only saw the fantasy part.

But art is often boring, tedious, messy, and everything but glamorous. And it's this boredom that can cause us problems. Many artists turn to drugs or alcohol in order to relieve the boredom. Or they may distract themselves in other ways, hiding from doing the work, from getting dirty. 

Think of all the long hours of practice you've gone through over your lifetime. Sitting in a practice room or studio, grinding things out, working on technique and the basics. Not very exciting. And then even once you've reached a certain level of success, there's all the time spent waiting. Waiting in airports, hotels, backstage, at meetings, restaurants, publ…

Art And Practice As Change

Change is inevitable. It's all around us. The nature of the whole Universe is that of change. As artists, we sometimes shy away from change, preferring to remain in the comfort of where we are. I know that I have a great tendency to resist change. I find things I like and I want them to always be there. Like food. 

I go to specific restaurants to order my favorite dish that the restaurants offer. A place may have 100 items on their menu, but I always order the same thing every time, because it's my favorite. Then one day the menu changes and my favorite dish is gone. This throws me completely off. I've even stopped going to some places because they don't have my favorite dish anymore, which was the reason to go there in the first place.

And this same type of thing can happen in our art. We find a rhythm, a groove, a comfortable place and want to remain there, creating the same thing over and over. But how many times can we paint the same picture, write the same story, or…

Art And Practice As Control

Control. It can be both a positive and a negative. For me, control can be an issue. I'm a perfectionist, which means I tend to want to control every aspect of my life, of my art. Especially with my art, I find it difficult to let it go.

A good example is writing, like this blog. After I've written something, I can easily edit it to death. I will tweak something here, add something there, and cut something elsewhere. Even as I'm getting ready to push post, I can hesitate and stop to edit things some more.

The same happens when I record and mix music. I have numerous albums that I've been working on forever (or so it seems). I keep opening the files, listening, tweaking, editing—I find it difficult to let go, to leave well enough alone and finally put them out for the world at large.

The Art of Control
This is control at its negative side. This type of control can kill creativity, can keep your art from ever being seen/heard/exposed. This type of control can also stamp out t…

Art And Practice As Failure

Failure. Is there a word more dreaded by artists?

Failure. Just the word can paralyze many working artists. Think about yourself, are there any projects in your history that have been left behind because you feared they would fail? I'm sure most of us can come up with at least 1 or 2. For some, we may have a whole warehouse full of self perceived failures.

Merriam Webster defines one aspect of failure as: lack of success, or a falling short. A big problem as artistic types, is focusing on this one aspect. We tend to see things as either, or. Either a great success, or, as a great failure. We rarely look at failure as something else, especially as an opportunity.

One big problem is this idea of either, or. In my experience, failure is rarely ever so black and white. It's always a matter of perspective and perception. For example, as a musician, I have had nights when I came off stage thinking I gave a horrible performance, only to be greated by people saying things like, “That was…

Art And Practice As Listening

The late composer, Pauline Oliveros, came up with the idea of Deep Listening, which she defined as, 
“listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what one is doing.” 
Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times        
Most of the listening we do is passive listening, where we just let the sounds come to us. Most of the time we are not paying attention to them, so they don't register in our minds. Deep listening is an active and selective process. But it's also a very important part of our life, which connects to all other parts. Sound/music has a deep connection with all of us. Whether it's the sound of waves on a beach, a baby's laugh, or our favorite song, there is a deep, emotional connection that we take personally.
“Listening properly becomes a kind of harmonizing of parts of our being—our intellectual center, our emotional center, and our moving center.” – Philip Glass, Listening to Philip Glass Photo credit: Steve Pyke

Part of the problem with li…