Particularly sharp post from Seth today:
“What would you have me do instead?”
To the critic who decries a project as a worthless folly, something that didn’t work out, something that challenged the status quo and failed, the artist might ask,
“Is it better to do nothing?”
To the critic who hasn’t shipped, who hasn’t created his art, anything less than better-than-what-I -have-now appears to be a waste. To this critic, progress should only occur in leaps, in which a fully functioning, perfected new device/book/project/process/system appears and instantly and perfectly replaces the current model.
We don’t need your sharp wit or enmity, please. Our culture needs your support instead.
Each step by any (and every) one who ships moves us. It might show us what won’t work, it might advance the state of the art or it might merely encourage others to give it a try as well.
To those who feel that they have no choice but to create, thank you.
You’re welcome. And hell yeah!
Cause if you don’t wake up every morning thinking “How am I going to break shit today?”
Then I don’t want your advice.
If you don’t walk this earth hell-bent on leaving a mark
Then I don’t need your expertise
If you aren’t scraping at the rocks and tilting into the wind because your heart fails every time you realize you just spent two hours watching TV instead doing that work
Then I’ve got two cold facts for you, 1 goes “You’re not one of us” and 2 goes “Shut the fuck up.”
I’ve got a big task ahead of me today. It’s one of the more difficult sorts of things I do and it will require a kind of all-day patience before I see any results I’m happy with. I’ve been putting it off (or deferring it to other work) for at least a week, and I already know I lost some of my notes.
So, this morning, waking slowly, knowing I had this big ugly thing ahead of me, I spent probably an hour, under a giant blanket of Resistance, mulling over how I could tackle it, looking for some positivity to cling to. That almost seems reasonable right, like a decent negotiation? “As soon as I find something I can fell good about, as soon as I locate some encouragement, I’ll get out of bed and start working.”
BULLSHIT! Guess what, I never found it, I was never happy, never satisfied. I finally realized I was going to have to get out of bed in a terrible mood, angry at the world, and already disappointed with myself. But sometimes that’s just how it’s gotta be. Good moods are for wimps and amateurs.
If your work is important, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for a good mood. Fuck that. It’s time to get out of bed,
This post is a stone-cold classic. Here’s the end: “If you take your head out of those little numbers, you’ll get a lot more of your head back where it belongs. In the game.”
So as I’m walking down the alley, I see a guy going into the laundromat with a big, full basket, at 9am. He looks well-groomed and fresh-eyed, like he’s fully awake. And I’m thinking, what the hell would compel a guy to get up this early on a Sunday to do his laundry? You couldn’t pay me enough.
Clearly, he’s got something worth doing his laundry for, even at 9am on a Sunday.
You gotta ask yourself, what’s worth getting out of bed for? And if that doesn’t bring a clear enough answer, raise the stakes. What’s worth doing your laundry? What’s worth painting the side of a house? What’s worth mowing the lawn? What do you really hate doing, but what would make it totally worth it?
I was having a lot of trouble getting of my metaphorical ass.
But then I put on some music, and that’s all it took. I’ve got happy feet! (Metaphorically, of course.)
That vacation kicked my ass.
I spent the first half of the week trying desperately to relax. Isn’t it funny how when you really need to relax, and you’ve made such elaborate preparations to do so, resistance swoops in and suddenly thinks that lots of work sounds like a great idea.
Gimme a break.
Then you get home, and you spend a week wodering what the hell you’re supposed to be doing.
It’s been a pretty rough day. I’ll just note that our puppy, Beckett (she’ll always be a puppy) went to the hospital today. She’s going to be okay, and we’re very grateful. And maybe it’s the unrent emotion of the day and my exhaustion making me so particularly available to Mr. Eliot’s words this evening.
I went looking in Anne Bogart’s book and then, you act for something to write about. The first page I opened to contained a bit of the fifth section of East Coker from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I doubt I’ll need to explain its relevance to our work here.
And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
“A raid on the inarticulate.” Amazing.
A resistance-beating habit makes all the difference. The momentum can be tremendous.
We did a show recently, called Skyscrapers of the Midwest, that required every bit of effort we had to pull it off. Seriously, our tanks were way below empty by the time we were finished. And it was totally worth it.
I remember there coming a point about 10 days from the end, when several of us went straight past the point of rational, determined resistance-beating to a mind-set where resistance could barely touch us. We started laughing at danger and dining on anything resistance threw in our paths.
It wasn’t that the work became easy, that certainly wasn’t the case. It was as-if by consistently beating resistance with constant effort for the previous three hellacious weeks, we reached a plateau from which we could look down on the ordinary resistance we had faced and realize how paltry it’s efforts actually.
Of course, on that plateau, we faced a big boss battle. Myself and two other people in particular were worked from 6am on opening day right up until the moment (this is not an exaggeration in any way, shape, or form) that we opened the theater doors, and even after that. It was incredible, and incredibly rewarding.
But we certainly wouldn’t have survived opening day without the plateau, and it weeks of brutal, misery-making slogging through the jungle to get to the plateau.
(And, once we rested, we didn’t get to start from the plateau, or even celebrate our boss battle. We started right back at the beginning, about to enter the jungle and get covered in leeches all over again.)
If you’ve worked at an incredibly busy restaurant, you may have experience a version of that plateau. On absolutely crazy days, like New Years Eve or Easter or Parents’ Weekend (for the Kona fans) you cook your ass off (or run your ass off) in a total panic for a couple of hours, but before long you realize that it’s hopeless, that those individually frustrating orders or customers are barely worth your notice. You stop sweating the small stuff, and start focusing on the bigger challenge, survival. Your focus shifts entirely, and when everyone reaches that plateau together, you can even start to have fun, right there in the seventh circle of hell. I don’t work in restaurants anymore, but I look back on those crazy days with fondness, believe it or not.
As for that show, when it opened successfully and when we could breathe long enough to take pride in our work, we bowed to resistance, our sensei, and we were thankful for our most worthy adversary.