Friday, January 15, 2010

One Year Post + Ten Thousand Hours

I had been thinking of putting up something momentous and grand for the occasion.

One thought that's been reoccurring to me a lot as of late:
There always comes a time when as an artist (aspiring or established, but particularly for those who are either starting out or aren't as good as they want to be), you'll have to choose between consuming the results of other people's creativity or shoring up your own efforts.
*Disclaimer: all this isn't to say researching current works or being inspired or a fan of someone else's work isn't in itself a part of the process - and by no means do I ever limit my own reading habits (there's a stack of a couple dozen books I just finished over the past month with several in-progress and another dozen waiting in the wings) or enjoy mindless entertainment, I mean, research.
But when I look around me at the majority of other folks, it seems everyone's rather preoccupied with looking at, buying, reading, watching, playing (etc.) stuff; and in the meantime, by habit, apathy and default, letting their own dreams of accomplishment wither away. Even peers whose work I really admire sometimes lose initiative and dig themselves a rut by being a cog in the wheel instead of pursuing or having faith in their own creative vision.
I have a personal habit that each and every time I sit down to catch a new DVD for example, I ask myself: can I do better than this? And if I can't - do I want to? Will it detract from time much better spent trying to better my own work?
Because more often than not, what the answer will be is I haven't yet paid anywhere near enough of the amount of time and energy dedicated to increasing my creative abilities. It takes a significant investment of all of your available resources - something I sort of shy away from instilling at the Beginning level of art classes, or at the very least tone down so as to not bludgeon prospective artists with, and the point can be made that in such an environment as school one cannot devote the requisite attention in order to advance with any significance. At best it'd be a hiatus where one can temporarily suspend forward progress while accumulating more knowledge and skills before in turn applying them full in practise.
Case in point: last week over coffee with an old friend I was made aware of something called the "Ten Thousand Hour" theory of mastering any given skill. The psychologist K. Anders Ericsson studies the "psychology of learning and motivation" and analyses of "acquired exceptional memory performance," and advocates of this theory estimate a minimum of three hours of work per day for 10 years (or 5 years of 5.5 hours a day of practice) to achieve master craftsmanship, including musicians, artists, athletes, writers etc.
The crucial distinction between effort versus ability can surmount almost any obstacle - and all too often modern life presents the average person with an avalanche of distractions (like blogging). By extension of this discipline, priorities become realigned and one makes other choices based upon this perspective: friends, family, work, recreation - finding the balance while weighing what's really important is the task.

Oh nevermind...

"In the end, everything is a gag." - Charlie Chaplin

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