Self Revealing

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The infinite fascination of waterdrops

Simple but useful wisdom for art making practitioners…

When asked for screenwriting tips, Greta Gerwig—actor, director and screenwriter—shared these two. As is often the case, her advice is useful for anyone engaged in a creative venture.

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Whenever you have an “idea,” as in a concept that you could explain to someone, like a hook or at worst a gimmick, that is a bad thing. It feels good, but it’s not good. The best ideas reveal themselves, you don’t “have” them. For me, anyway.

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I have gotten into baseball recently, and whenever I have trouble writing, I think about the pace of baseball. It’s slow. You strike out a lot, even if you’re great. It’s mostly individual, but when you have to work together, it must be perfect. My desktop picture is of the Red Sox during the World Series. They aren’t winning; they’re just grinding out another play. This, for me, is very helpful to have in my mind while writing.

Her words of advice dovetail with insights from painter Tom Nozkowski:

If there is one essential survival skill that you must learn, it is how to sustain yourself and your work over the years. There is really only one way to do this, and that is by loving what you do, being fascinated by your work, and by being obsessed with making art. You will get in trouble if you need the approval of others to keep your work moving forward. After all these years, the one essential element in my practice, the one thing I am sure of is that I need to be interested in and happy about what I am doing in the studio.

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12 comments

  1. broadsideblog’s avatar

    I love Gerwig’s choice of baseball and grinding it out.

    I write for a living and so many would-be or new writers want an immediate home run. They have no idea that even the most talented and accomplished writers or artists may have an entire career made up of singles, doubles and an occasional triple. The home run is rare, elusive and the thing everyone thinks is going to be theirs.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      I had the same response. It is hard work, this writing and painting and making. Thanks so much for your comment and for stopping in.

      1. broadsideblog’s avatar

        It’s inspired a blog post, so you’ll see the link when it goes up. Thanks for being so honest…

        1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

          Yes, please share the link here.

  2. Rachael Eastman’s avatar

    Striking out countless times, and yet, gaining something too, even in the slow slide of marks that are forming “home”.
    Efficiency seems to have become a modern religion replete with piety, and worlds of experience are lost there. Grace is a dimension held in patient practice and in deep seeing. I am ever so grateful for your posts Deborah.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      This comment is so rich and poetic Rachael. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom here. I know we are drinking from the same stream.

  3. Altoon’s avatar

    It’s interesting that striking out happens more to batters who are trying for the big run (at least I read this somewhere and it’s stuck with me, though I don’t really know if it’s true).
    I love the Nozkowski quote, thanks for that. I once saw a video of him walking around, talking about stuff on the ground in the woods that might be an inspiration for a painting; he has his heart open.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      Perfect description of my impressions of Nozkowski from just reading his words: “he has his heart open.” I hope for that state in myself every day. Thanks Altoon for your words.

  4. Tamar Zinn’s avatar

    Rachel’s comment above captures much of what I was thinking. Certainly, while efficiency is to be admired in some situations, it is the antithesis of the creative process. The wonder is that we do remain ‘fascinated by our own work’ despite the ongoing repetition and fine-tuning it entails.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      It is a miracle, being fascinated by our own work despite the ongoing repetition. It’s a bit like sex in that sense isn’t it? Thanks Tamar.

  5. Rachael Eastman’s avatar

    I feel fortunate to be in this skein of perceptions, a skein held together in retaining a sense of time and reflection against its rapid cultural fraying.
    ( I remain fascinated, as Tamar has said.)

  6. smallonpurpose’s avatar

    I like the above comment about how batters who are seeking the big run strike out more often. A statistic or a truth- I don’t quite know. But how true. Thank you for sharing this.

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