Monday, May 18, 2009

Writer's Work Habits

Writers are a solitary sort. They establish their own Rules of Discipline and Goals, be it a certain number of hours, pages, or words. Most strictly control their work space and routine. Kipling did it, Woodhouse did it and King does it.

It's the same with a lot of artists. Control your surroundings and set work parameters, then creativity can run wild within it.

They also allow themselves an equal share of dream-time and downtime Most walk. A lot.* It seems a good balance. Mind and body; equal time allowed. One flows into the other and feeds the missing half. A lot of good ideas come when you're driving or in the shower or just before you either go to sleep or are just waking up. Going into the Alpha brain wave state.

I usually have a pen and page of paper at the bedside to jot down ideas, dreams, or thoughts before they get away. One of those recorder/writing pens might be a good idea. The pens do come with earphones. But to put the earphones in and write with the pen attached to the other end of the cord? I don't think so. That would make a good Mr. Bean episode.

So I'm thinking about using these writer's work strategy to improve and to streamline the process of making art.

Another thing: King doesn't talk about the work while he's writing. He feels talking about it dilutes the inspiration. He doesn't let anyone read it (not even himself) until he has let the manuscript 'mature' in a desk drawer for 6-8 weeks. He then looks at it afresh and does the first edit.

I feel criticism during the making process has got to be your own. The very last thing you want is someone swanning in and suggesting changes while you're making something.

Things that you think are wonderful--that you totally fall in love with might not look so great down the stream of time as you progress in the work. You may look at it later on and wonder why you thought was so great.

Conversely, you could have made things that you thought were awful. When they came out of the kiln, they were not at all what you thought they should have been.

Resist the impulse to take the hammer to it! It's happened enough to me to temper my reactions now. I still regret the destruction of a very large majolica pitcher I judged too quickly. Let your verdict rest for a while. Put some distance between you and the time of the work. "In the fullness of time" you will know.

But---Bad work should not live. Faulty construction, unskilled results, artistic eyesores, dangerous glaze results, cracked or fatally flawed pieces should not be offered to the public. Ever. I once saw a piece made by a nationally known potter offered for sale. The foot had collapsed on one side, there was a crack in the base. I'm sure he would have been horribly chagrined to know that pot made it into the market.

You should keep work that can serve as a 3D reminder for repeat work or to explore the form further at a later date. I have a few of those in my studio. That would be the only justification I can see for sparing the hammer.

You are the first critic. There are plenty of others who will have as many opinions and there are leaves on the trees. And they will be more than happy to share those with you. Trust me. (Where's my irony emotocom.)

*Although for King, this almost proved to be fatal. In 1999, he was struck by a van and nearly killed. A long recovery ensued and he completed "On Writing" during the healing process.

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