Seriously   (2016May31)


Tuesday, May 31, 2016                                                     11:34 PM

I take myself seriously—probably too much so. But it’s all of a piece—there are people that wouldn’t be able to take themselves seriously as a writer or musician, or artist, without some validation or recognition or encouragement. But I do it without any of that good stuff—the taking it seriously makes me take myself seriously, even when there’s no apparent evidence that I should.

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See, I don’t worry about whether I’m good or not—I was lucky, as a kid, to be gifted with a pencil and paper—lots of people told me I was good at drawing. But some people weren’t impressed. I noticed that. I wondered ‘how can I please a lot of people, yet fail to please everybody?’ I would come to discuss other peoples’ drawing—and find that I liked some that other people didn’t like, and lots of popular artists didn’t appeal to me.

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So I see the whole question of “Am I any good?” as a slippery one. Then I had the bad luck to fall in love with playing the piano—without any ability to play the piano. I was objectively bad. I played anyway, because I wanted to play—and I thought, ‘who knows, maybe I’ll get better.’ Well, I didn’t. I got better than I was, but I never got ‘good’. I felt safer with piano—I knew I could spend the rest of my life practicing and still have plenty of work to do. I enjoyed being challenged by something I was bad at more than being good at something I was talented at.

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Then I got sick—and now my hands shake—so I can’t draw good anymore. I don’t really miss it. I miss people asking me to make custom-drawn birthday cards and flyers and stuff like that—I loved being useful—but I don’t miss trying to think up something to do on a blank piece of paper. After a while that became a lot of pressure. One of the things that made me a big draughtsman was I loved attracting an audience—people used to love to watch me draw—for a while, I’d be quite a showman about it—playing to the audience. That made sitting in a room, drawing pictures, to show people only after they were completed, seem unsatisfying.

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These days, I see some performance artists do a big painting for an audience, maybe dancing around while they throw paint at the canvas—and I think ‘good for you—you found a way to make it work for you.’ I should have realized, back then, that I enjoyed drawing for spectators—I wouldn’t have gotten so tired of drawing. I stopped doing the ‘performance-drawing’ because I noticed I let the quality of the artwork go, just to score points with the crowd—it’s too bad I couldn’t just have accepted that as a fair trade-off. (If I take myself too seriously now, it’s nothing to how too-serious I was as a kid.) But, spilt milk under the bridge, etc.

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Anyhow, the point is, I’ve been doing stuff throughout my life without any serious concern about whether I was good or not. I’ve come to recognize that as a blessing. There are so many people who don’t draw, who don’t play an instrument—because they’re worried about being good at it. To me that’s not the point, at all. It’s the doing, not the judging. If you do something—and you get some good from doing it—you’re done. Whether other people approve or not. I always hear disapproval as encouragement to try harder.

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I’m never worried about what other people will think—I’m only concerned with doing my best. And because I’m all about the trying, I take it very seriously. Which turns into taking myself seriously. It’s all of a piece. But I’m sure it makes me insufferable, most of the time. Sorry about that.

FamPh 572

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