On New Year’s Day I started rereading Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmakingby David Bayles and Ted Orland. I first read it the summer before last after a short writing retreat, and it seemed appropriate to start the year with a review of this book’s gems. If you do any kind of creative work, or think about doing any kind of creative work, whether or not it’s your day job, I commend this book to you. Don’t get too caught up on identifying your creative work as “art” when considering whether this book is for you. That kind of internal judgment might keep you from reading something that could be just the encouragement you need.
Here’s are some of my favorite excerpts from Art & Fear:
“Your job is to learn to work on your work.”
“If, indeed, for any given time only a certain sort of work resonates with life, then that is the work you need to be doing in that moment.”
“Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your own reception by others prevents you from doing your own work.”
“If you think good work is somehow synonymous with perfect work, you are headed for big trouble.”
“One of the best kept secrets of artmaking is that new ideas come into play far less frequently then practical ideas – ideas that can be re-used for a thousand variations, supplying the framework for a whole body of work rather than a single piece.”
“The hardest part of artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over – and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.”
“The arc to any individual life is uniform over long periods of time. Subjects that draw us in will continue to draw us in. Patterns we respond to we will continue to respond to.”
“We tell the stories we have to tell, stories of the things that draw us in – and why should any of us have more than a handful of those?”
There's so much more that I'd like to excerpt for you, but I will stop with this sampling and hope it has whetted your appetite to read more from this book or given you some food for thought and encouragement.
[Photo: taken of a hands-on weaving demonstration at an exhibit of textile artist Helena Hernmarck's woven tapestries at the American Swedish Institute a couple years ago.]