Random quote of the day:
"Fucking up, if you aspire to be an artist, may be the great creative principle: getting broken, broken wide open, and then delving into the shards. Moving on. Painting, writing—these are always, first and foremost, struggles for authenticity."
—Breyten Breytenbach, in Lawrence Weschler's "A Horrible Face, but One's Own," Calamities of Exile: Three Nonfiction Novellas( Illustrated version. )The Delving Part
I edited the above quote so I could fit it more easily with the graphic (and because it gets posted in a public place at work, I had to fiddle the "fucking" part), but I think the full quote is worth sharing:
“Self-knowledge is not self-abasement or self-rejection. I was, I am, a flawed human being. But that’s more interesting than being an iron cast. And there’s something to be said for fucking up. In fact, fucking up, if you aspire to be an artist, may be the great creative principle: getting broken, broken wide open, and then delving among the shards. Moving on. Painting, writing—these are always, first and foremost, struggles for authenticity.”
I have to constantly remind myself of this: that doing art is not just about success, but about failure. Failure—trying stuff that doesn't work, learning from it, moving on—is how the creative process works. It's about pushing yourself and examining yourself and constant reevaluation and doubt and insecurity and fear and, every once in a while, something really splendid, something that makes you know it's all worthwhile. Being an artist is not at all a comfortable thing, though there's a lot of romantic notions about the process. Anyone who is seriously doing art knows how uncomfortable it can be to want to do something right and not quite make it. There's a fine line between a nutter and an artist. As Jung pointed out, sometimes an artist is a nutter who has learned to channel their neurosis successfully. He stated it more politely than that.
I am not saying that you have to suffer for your art, just that if you're serious about it, that's probably going to happen anyway, inside, in that place where you doubt and fear and live and die. I am not saying artists are better than anyone else on the planet, or a special class of people, or need to be worshiped as truthgivers or any of that other junk that's so often hung around their necks. I am
saying that through a convoluted combination of nature and nurture artists are people who move through the world with an overwhelming need to create that goes against all common sense, all practical considerations, all naysaying. It's an integral part of who they are and without it they feel lost. They may give it up, but the hole inside never closes, and often turns sour.
Much is made about succeeding in the publishing game or the gallery game or the dance hall—wherever the money and acclaim part of the equation sits. And that's all good stuff, really good stuff. But for an artist, I think, success and failure is more than that. It's about those incremental moments of trying to do better, pushing yourself, discovering yourself, rediscovering yourself, getting sick of yourself—and starting the whole thing over again. We all quit the business sometimes when it gets to be overwhelming, but we usually start back up again once the latest crisis passes. The only true failure is giving up completely, and finally. Because it is
about the art at the end of the day. It's about assembling the broken bits in new ways, of stumbling your way through the world, trying to see things from a fresh perspective, about being true to yourself. It's about a life raft on a vast, wine dark sea that nature/nurture threw you into when you were too young to have a say in things.