Home»Writers, writing, written.»Writers only get down to work when “the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working”

The writer is someone engaged in artmaking, and suffers the pains and perils of every other artist.

(from telorland.com)
(from tedorland.com)

Bayles, David and Ted Orland. Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. Santa Cruz, CA: Image Continuum, 1993.

“To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork. The viewers’ concerns are not your concerns (although it’s dangerously easy to adopt their attitudes.) Their job is whatever it is: to be moved by art, to be entertained by it, to make a killing off it, whatever. Your job is to learn to work on your work.” (5)

“The point is that you learn how to make your work by making your work, and a great many of the pieces you make along the way will never stand out as finished art. The best you can do is make art you care about – and lots of it!” (6)

“ ‘Artist’ has gradually become a form of identity which (as every artist knows) often carries with it as many drawbacks as benefits. Consider that if artist equals self, then when (inevitably) you make flawed art, you are a flawed person, and when (worse yet) you make no art, you are no person at all! It seems far healthier to sidestep that vicious spiral by accepting many paths to successful artmaking – from reclusive to flamboyant, intuitive to intellectual, folk art to fine art. One of those paths is yours.” (7)

“Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working. – Stephen DeStaebler” (9)

“But curiously, while artists always have a myriad of reasons to quit, they consistently wait for a handful of specific moments to quit. Artists quit when they convince themselves that their next effort is already doomed to fail. And artists quit when they lose the destination for their work – for the place their art belongs.” (10)

“Operating Manual for Not Quitting

  1. Make friends with others who make art, and share your in-progress work with each other frequently.
  2. Learn to think of A, rather than the Museum of Modern Art, as the destination of your work. (Look at it this way: If all goes well, MOMA will eventually come to you.)” (12)

“…most artists don’t daydream about making great art – they daydream about having made great art.” (17)

“Photographer Jerry Uelsmann once gave a slide lecture in which he showed every single image he had created in the span of one year: some hundred-odd pieces – all but about ten which he judged insuffieicent and destroyed without ever exhibiting. Tolstoy, in the Age Before Typewriters, re-wrote War and Peace eight times and was still revising galley proofs as it finally rolled onto the press. William Kennedy gamely admitted that he re-wrote his own novel Legs eight times, and that ‘seven times it came out no good. Six times it was especially no good. The seventh time out it was pretty good, though it was way too long. My son was six years old by then and so was by novel and they were both about the same height.’ “ (19)


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