Monday, September 09, 2019

Tell Yourself the Ages Are Listening

Artists and writers: At some point, or several points, you’re going to receive the message that your work is insignificant, that your commitment to the work is futile, that you and what you represent as an artist do not matter.

At some point, or several points, you’re going to wonder what use there is in continuing to do and share your work. 

It’s unlikely that you will escape this unpleasantness. But when it arrives, remember that almost nobody escapes it — that you’ve come to a new threshold, and this one also you can cross as you’ve crossed other thresholds before it.

Take the upleasantness as a sign of your progress, of the strength of your commitment to the work. Take it as a reminder of how far you’ve gone, and as a renewal. 

Face the deafening silence, let outright rejection wash over you. Then say to yourself, if you can, "Art is freedom, beginnings are beautiful, rebeginnings even more so," and honor your practice by showing up even when nobody else will — especially then.

You’re strong of heart, with fire in your belly, and you’re endowed with gifts and disciplined in the daily work, the lifelong work, of honing these gifts.

From the start you knew this work would be one of the hardest things you could choose to do. Stand back and realize: there’s no surprise in this turn of events. Don’t look around for those more “lucky” than you. 

Don’t review your prior hours and days in terms of “waste.” And don’t think in terms of “arrival,” only in terms of the work at hand. Not “accomplishments,” only beginnings. 

Give yourself, if necessary, to posterity, or to your ancestors. Tell yourself the ages are listening. Do what you have to do to reorient yourself.

Then: notice the light in your window, the shape of the words inside you or already there on the paper, the instructions coming through the music even on your thousandth listen.

Ready now, enclosed in frightful privacy, get to work again, if not for yourself then for those of us you may never meet. We’re full of faith in you and we are waiting.