“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one. But who would not call Pasteur’s life a good one, or Thomas Mann’s?”–Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
All too true, I think. I get frustrated by the few pages of reading I squeeze into my bus ride, a taste when I want a gulp, when I want to read 52 books a year and will probably get under 20 at best. I write a few paragraphs, a few pages, edit a sentence or two, but it ain’t no novel. I draw day after day after day, but can’t see my improvements. Is nothing happening, does one really need to quit the day job and do the creative work 24/7, poverty be damned, or is my time scale is off? Here’s an example: Some time around 2006, I dropped my obsession with capturing likeness (nice when I could still get it), and began to focus on characteristic gesture and expression instead. I used to practice this in the interminable meetings we had at the job I worked back then.
After that job ended, so did the opportunity to find sustained poses, and between economic woes and a refocus on writing, I really didn’t do much drawing at all until this spring. But now look what’s happened.
There’s something here. Not everything I want, but a piece of it. Yes, there’s the difference of working from a photo, but those meetings made passionate, 20-somethigns into veritable still life. No joke. So the change must have happened when I wasn’t looking, maybe even in unsuccessful sketches, then and now, that I grumbled over, dismissed and begrudged. The verdict? Trust the process, do the work, and every now and then, lift myself above the day-by-day routine to see where I am. Which is comparatively easy to say, forgetting the disappointment of coming short of the vision, except for this–
I may be closer to my Emerald City than I think.