Four more holes

Four more holes

I was talking with a friend of mine today about the frustration of being stuck. What do you do? "I'm really not good at moving my ideas past 'stuck,'" he said.

I feel like other people just choose and then work. I have a river of ideas that I wade in daily. They come rushing at me, swirl and burble around my legs, then go rushing on.
Other people swim down that stream (or are torn from their footing and are swept).
And I just observe and marvel at the beauty of the torrent and wish and lust and never let the water carry me.
I don’t know how to let go of the ground.

That's the question, in't it? And I thought about my grandfather.

When he was a young man, he played the cello with a symphony orchestra. When he was older, he got a job as a tool and die worker. I always thought it was such a study in contrasts: this man who had played music directed by Shostakovitch, who had this deep love for his craft, had also spent many years happily drilling holes in sheet metal.

And more than that, he talked about them as though they were basically the same thing.

He didn't elevate one over the other. His approach to playing cello was that it was just something you did, it was a job (although it was a really nice one). Sometimes you played the cello in a big room with lots of people. Sometimes you drilled holes in sheet metal.

Creativity and craft is like that. People who are good at their craft don't love it all the time. Sometimes they don't even like it. But they do it; they do it day after day, even when it's not glamorous. Especially when it's not. And I think that being ok with that is one of the essential keys to being really good at anything.

As long as your dream gig is rainbows and unicorns, it will remain unapproachable. Maybe if you looked at it more like it was drilling holes in sheet metal, you'd get over your fantasies about it and realize that it's precisely when it feels like another day drilling holes in sheet metal that you're succeeding at it.

So I told my friend this:

Every single fabulous motherfucker I’ve ever read from Bukowski to Leonard Cohen says doing their art is horrible and hard and they suck at it and it’s a long slog and takes too long and it’s drilling holes in fucking sheet metal.

"But why shouldn’t my work be hard?," Cohen said.

Almost everybody’s work is hard. One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff, to come up with my payload.
— Leonard Cohen
 Leonard Cohen, photo by  gaë t

Leonard Cohen, photo by gaët

You can quit tomorrow.

Today, drill four more holes. Grandpa would approve.

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