A timely gem in a recent Red Hand Files – Nick Cave responding to a question about what he does when his lyrics just don’t flow – what he calls a “this lack of motion, this sense of suspended powerlessness”.
the thing you must hold on to through these difficult periods, as hard as it may be, is this — when something’s not coming, it’s coming. It took me many years to learn this, and to this day I have trouble remembering it.
The idea of lyrics ‘not coming’ is basically a category error. What we are talking about is not a period of ‘not coming’ but a period of ‘not arriving’. The lyrics are always coming. They are always pending. They are always on their way toward us. But often they must journey a great distance and over vast stretches of time to get there. They advance through the rugged terrains of lived experience, battling to arrive at the end of our pen. In time, they emerge, leaping free of the unknown — from memory or, more thrillingly, from the predictive part of our minds that exists on the far side of the lived moment. It has been a long and arduous journey, and our waiting much anguished.
Our task is to remain patient and vigilant and to not lose heart — for we are the destination. We are the portals from which the idea explodes, forced forth by its yearning to arrive. We are the revelators, the living instruments through which the idea announces itself — the flourishing and the blooming — but we are also the waiting and the wondering and the worrying.
I am just trying to make visual stepping stones at the moment and not obsessing out about outputs or entities. My mind keeps jumping to an imagined future and it is not a good place. Apparently we are suffering some kind of collective anticipatory grief as a result of the pandemic. I need to stay in the present, be calm and take one day at a time. I think connections are the most important thing right now. Connecting with other humans but also finding connections in my research. It feels comforting.
And I need to stop trying to fit the specific images I think are good into an idea. Those images will still be successful – in their own right or for another project. I should stop shoehorning.
A big mind shift for me is moving away from the idea that my Body of Work has to be the greatest opus of my life. Instead I am thinking of it as the manifestation (actualisation?) of a delightful research project (visual and theoretical). The first of many in my life. More the Canary and the Hammer than The Last Resort.
I think I’m still worrying too much about making work that SAYS SOMETHING. As my noble friend Rob has advised, I will probably make better headway if I explore and express an idea rather than feel I have to make a big pronouncement. During the A Little Magic workshop, Hayley Lock said: it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else as long as it is visually coherent to you. Even heavy-handed messages and codes can be misinterpreted or overlooked so what’s the point in worrying about being too opaque? We definitely do not have control of how people respond when the work is out in the wild so I just need to stay on the bus. Or in my case, get on a bus. Build a bus. Steal a bus. Pimp a bus? Something.
Deleuze: “This is how it should be done: lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.”
One of my lovely study buddies described my new header image as “Intrigue, foreboding and beauty all rolled into one.” I’ll take that.
A big part of getting unstuck has been distilling the scribbles in my ‘everyday notes’ notebook, which had become unmanageable, into my handwritten logbook. I have captured all the ideas I’d jotted down along the way, but not had chance to try out, and put them on individual tag cards. This means that I can work through them one at a time without feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. Still a way to go but this feels like a good strategy.
- The Red Hand Files – issue #108
- Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus : capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.