Saturday, February 21, 2015
The Kitchen and Night Tables
This is where I've been living every free moment of these last few weeks; I don't even clean up at mealtimes. I've been amplifying, augmenting and clarifying the docent training materials I'm writing for the KMA. I have everything at my fingertips and though it looks like a mess, it's actually a very exciting collection of research. I can't believe how much I've learned in this process. I'm so thankful, already, of this chance to really delve into an artistic topic and exhibition, and I'm figuring out that I can figure things out and not be a complete boob in the process. Hopefully I'll have addressed the edits I received last week well enough that the table can get a bit tidier next week. Fingers crossed.
My artist's itch has been scratched and satisfied by all this cool research and work, but I still read for pleasure each evening. Somehow, reading at bedtime helps to clear my mind of today's what-I've-left-undone list and tomorrow's to-do list so that I can fall asleep easier. Since reading is such a part of my life, I've decided to report back to you what I'm reading or have just finished. I've kept a reading journal next to my bed for years so I can record titles, authors, and a brief impression of each book I've finished. (I only record partially read books if I stop reading them because I can't stomach them any longer; I don't record books I've become distracted from.) I've already read some wonderful books this year including All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I highly recommend this book. It's a beautifully told account of WWII from a French girl's and German's boy's perspective. It covers new territory so it's not a rehashing of stories you have already read and the chapters are short, making it easy to stop when you need to. Do try to find it if you can. I look forward to hearing how you like it.
Right now I'm reading Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. This book is written by Ed Catmull, one of the original three founders of Pixar and Amy Wallace, a free-lance writer from LA. (Since this is written from Ed's perspective, I can only assume Amy's job was to polish what Ed said.) In a nutshell, Ed shares managerial experiences from his career, but most notably at Pixar, in order to share lessons he's learned as he strives to cultivate a working environment that embraces creativity, idea development, hard work, team spirit and an honest post-mortem review of what worked and what didn't. I haven't finished it yet, but it's engaging enough to hold my interest even at the end of the day. Of course, it helps that I'm a Pixar fan and, though I've heard versions of topics before, some sections still resonate with me. Here's one:
For most of us, failure comes with baggage -- a lot of baggage -- that I believe is traced directly back to our days in school. From a very early age, the message is drilled into our heads: Failure is bad; failure means you didn't study or prepare; failure means you slacked off or -- worse! -- aren't smart enough to begin with. Thus, failure is something to be ashamed of. This perception lives on long into adulthood, even in people who have learned to parrot the oft-repeated arguments about the upside of failure. How many articles have you read on that topic alone? And yet, even as they nod their heads in agreement, many readers of those articles still have the emotional reaction that they had as children. They just can't help it: That early experience of shame is too deep-seated to erase. All the time in my work, I see people resist and reject failure and try mightily to avoid it, because regardless of what we say, mistakes feel embarrassing. There is a visceral reaction to failure: It hurts.
We need to think about failure differently. I'm not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren't a necessary evil. They aren't evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we'd have no originality).
I belabor my choices when I work. I take FOREVER to make up my mind. What if I make a mistake? I may have to print this section from the book and post it in my studio to remember that, without risk and the possibility of crashing and burning, there won't be anything original coming out of my studio.
Good thought. I want to be original. Do you fear failure?