art, workstyle

making things harder

Yesterday, I had one of those false revelations, distilled out of ignoring problems, that seems to clarify everything: the most important thing to do with your talents is not what is hardest for you, but what is easiest and most natural.

For a short time, this answered all my questions. A few hours later, it clarified nothing, but today, it still seems true.

Challenge is good, but to challenge yourself to the extent of consciously ignoring the work at which you’re most talented is perverse. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? It has never been, for me, and this formula is the opposite of how I’ve worked for a long time.

I frequently make a point of avoiding the easiest and most natural areas of art in which I can work, and have pursued other artistic objectives, not exclusively – but partially – because they are difficult to the point of being impossible.

I have other friends who work in this way, too – deliberately against their own strengths. Although we all spend a lot of time half miserable over it, I respect them. I have the same condition. I know it comes from a desire to have no shortcuts, no favors, no lucky breaks – but to win whatever artistic achievement you can through nothing but cutting through granite with a plastic spoon.

You know that line in the Mary Chapin Carpenter song, “Everything we got, we got the hard way…” ?

Sometimes I wonder if we will ever settle ourselves down to doing the things at which we are best. Trying to do so is the next step. We are all getting too old to keep working on the rock.