I was having a hard time staying focused on so I took a moment to do what I love. It kept me focused and kept me from completely shutting down.
Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.
Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau gives some good advice here. there’s also a quote that goes “Find what you love and let it kill you.” there’s some debate on whether Bukowski says it or not. Anyhow I’m writing this to remind you that doing what you love is exactly what you do to keep from falling into that awful state somewhere between avoidance and helplessness. Keep your head up. Keep swimming. You got this.
Just a shortie today. But I showed up so points to me.
An embrace of the moments when waiting becomes visible can remind us not of the time we are losing but of the ways we can demystify the mythology of instantaneous culture and ever-accelerating paces of “real time.”
This is taken from Maria Popova a writer I admire for her ability to weave information, wisdom, and creative inspiration into to one post. Her posts a dense but when you finish, you feel light as a feather. Anyhow, right now I’m in a place where I’m waiting. I do want to take my time. I’m willing to step away from control. I’m willing to strategize to make the best choice for my community, but I’m gunna be honest, the wait is rough.
What’s interesting is that I didn’t realize how much I’ve allowed this waiting place to stop me from functioning. I feel like I would be more productive if I had everything I needed right now. While being in the waiting place, I’ve gone into a slump. I feel like there’s nothing else to be done since I’m waiting. It feels strange and even stranger when I’m fully aware of it. It turns into this internal struggle ultimately leading to a nap. Which is not resourceful, if you asked me.
So how to change my mindset in my waiting place?
I think there are a million ways to change my mindset on waiting but Brain Pickings was the first place I started. And Brain Pickings gave me exactly what I needed. Let’s start here.
Waiting, as represented by silences, gaps, and distance, allows us the capacity to imagine that which does not yet exist and, ultimately, innovate into those new worlds as our knowledge expands.
If I shift my mindset from there’s nothing I can do, to, I have so many things I can think up to get me excited about my future, maybe that will help. Let’s keep going. Jason Forman is also quoted here saying,
Waiting points to our desires and hopes for the future; and while that future may never arrive and our hopes may never be fulfilled, the act of reflecting on waiting teaches us about ourselves.
Imagine that. Allowing this time to change me. I stepped into this month a person only slightly aware of her lack of waiting skills and will leave this month as a woman who waits better than she did before. This is getting more inspiring as we go. Glad we’re doing this together. Now for the two practical strategies to transform our waiting from a negative to a positive experience.
The first is to remember the positives of waiting. It’s easy to fall into a mindset where we feel like things should go our way, but it’s so valuable to find the upside to situations that don’t go the way we’d prefer them.
The second is to think of time as a collective thing, rather than distinct from one another. This mindset shift, she says, is empathetic. It’s a wonderful thing to wait a tad bit longer because you understand the situation of another person.
and for a bonus, I’ll add one of my own. It’s always important to focus on what you can control. You may not be able to control your waiting time but you can control how you use that time to your advantage. And since we’ve made it to the last strategy, I think we can both say, we’re starting in the right place; focused on changing our mindset.
Johann David Passavant was born in 1787 in Germany. There’s isn’t much about Passavant’s personal life but let’s take some time to appreciate his contribution to art history. We know that Passavant was a painter and an enthusiastic spokesman for the Nazarene group. (The Nazarene movement was a group of artists inspired to bring spirituality back into art.)
What Passavant gifted us was his shift on the word oeuvre from his monograph on Raphael. He did publish other articles, but at age 52, his historical collection of Raphael was published and changed the way we write monographs forever. The monograph was titled, Rafael von Urbino und sein Vater Giovanni Santi. According to “Art as Existence” by Gabriele Guercio, “Never before in the history of this form of writing had the artist work been presented so explicitly and systematically as a multidimensional organic whole.” His writing style though similar to other monographers had never been done before. He had to pave his own way through writing his monograph in this form. It must not have been easy but he was determined. It says, “Passavant’s project demanded that he chart Raphael’s progress from within, drawing a web of relations among artist’s works that parallels the course of the artist’s life.” This reminds me of one of those boards with the red thread and thumbtacks. He must have spent a lot of time and energy gathering all the little pieces of Raphael’s life and works but it paid off.
His monograph “epitomized in the literature of art the modern conception of the human being as an expressive individual driven to realize his or her nature, whose life cycle is characterized by a continuous dialectic between being and becoming.” Using this method gives the monograph a similar feel to works of fiction. He does this by giving the readers a view of the artist’s character arc.
I find it fascinating the amount of work it took Passavant to give life to the artists and how impactful it was in the end. It feels like we, as writers, are constantly reminding the world of our humanity. Being human is something so easy to misplace or to leave out, especially with the greats. We give them too much credit. We undermine all the hard work they are putting into their art while also handling the same stressors that come with life; death and loss, heartbreak, mental illness, illness, and all the other things that cause suffering without discrimination. We writers will forever be called to bring life to humanity or to remind humans that they are human. We are here to say,
Hey humans we are always somewhere between becoming and being and that’s ok because we’re all like that.
And then we write about it and live like we believe it. Sometimes it pays off and we get to leave the world a little bit better than when it found us.
I made an error on my last blog post. Giorgio Vasari who was alive from 1511- 1574, is actually the author of The Lives, the first and most esteemed model in the west for writing about artist’s life and work. I made the mistake of mentioning that Johann David Passavant, (alive from 1787-1860), was the first writer of the monograph, that was false. Since I made such a silly error, I’d like to take the time to explain who’s who between the two artist monograph writers. Today, I will start with Giorgio Vasari.
According to Theartstory.org, Vasari was the oldest of six and lived in Arezzo, Tuscany. He was blessed with art as part of his upbringing. Art and creativity had been passed down through generations. When he was young, he was raised artists, but he was also considered a sick kid. That didn’t hold him back though. He attended public school and by the time he finished school, he was ready for an apprenticeship with Michelangelo Buonarroti. After his apprenticeships, at 16, he took over his family’s financial needs due to his father passing from the plague. Though it was a tragic loss, this experience gave him an insight on financials that other artists did not gain while they lived the artist life. Finally, he returned to art after a friend invited him back where they studied the greats like Raphael and Michelangelo. Even with such a profound background in the arts, Vasari did not publish his first book until he was 39 years old.
Let’s talk about the book. According to Art as Existence by Gabriele Guercio, Giorgio Vasari’s first book was titled, “The Lives of Painters, Sculptors and Architects.” It “is grouped into three parts or ‘ages’ (artistic periods), each marking the beginning of a different style.” He uses this to organize dates and times and progression of artistic proficiency within each period. Vasari’s intention was to “rescue from oblivion ‘the names of sculptors, painters, and architects’ and to enable readers to discern in what way the masters differed from each other.”
Vasari preferred to combine more than just the evolutionary process of their art, he intentionally included; the artists’ individuality, talent, and character. He gave a perception of artists in a way no one else in that time had done yet. He was revolutionary in the way he presented an artist and their work. His work is the roots for the nineteenth century monograph, so many monographers even today refer to his work.
After some time, Vasari found his place in the art world and gave us insights we would have never had. He was a sick kid who lost his father at 16 and now we refer to him when we need to understand the evolution of the great artists from before our time. Imagine seeing a need in the writing world and filling it for lifetimes after you’re gone. What an accomplishment.
Gabriele Guercio, in Art as an Existence, speaks on the metaphor, life is in the process of creating. He says that art represents spirit and its informing ideas as well as the creative action of nature. Seeing the progression of an artist (or writer in our case) shows a natural cycle. It allows the artist’s work to come into being naturally.
To further explain, when you observe an artist’s work who invests in mastering their craft over time, you get to see what Guercio refers to as, “the natural and cultural growth, inner inclination, and outside context; or all the elements that confront each other within the story of an individual’s formation.” This is something J.D. Passavant called Bilding.
Let’s talk about this as creative writers. Let’s say, creative writing brings into consciousness those natural and unconscious forces that are active within the writer and when it finally enters the universe of being, it does so by aiming at the fullness and variety of nature. That would mean that our writing should in some way represent the truth of our inner struggles. It should require us to show up to the page with vulnerability and an eagerness to bring into awareness our inner conflicts. These are not ugly conflicts, there’s so much beauty in vulnerability. This, to the first monograph writer and also to me, is art.
Not everyone is this type of artist. It takes great focus and courage to face yourself and then place your soul on a blank page. I think it is so challenging to write in this way that we can’t help but keep reading. We can’t help but adore the writer.
There are so many times we are just at the edge of a breakthrough and we walk away. It’s funny, we sit here and say, “I want to reach for the stars. I want breakthroughs.” But when the time comes to sit through the pain, we can’t take it. We step away. We find something to appease our anxiety. And we have no idea that that moment we couldn’t sit through, was our opportunity to face our moment of truth.
Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.
I admit it, when I’m writing and my anxiety gets high, I automatically step away and look for a snack. It’s wired in me. It’s wired in all of us. When our brain senses that a situation can cause some sort of discomfort, it tells us that our best option is to step away. And we listen. Maybe more times than we should. But here I am reminding you to stick it out. Sit and focus and don’t stop till you feel the breakthrough. I promise you, it’s there. I promise you, it’s coming. And I can guarantee you that if you are super uncomfortable, you’re in the right starting place. Keep going.