Tag Archives: The Art of Asking

READING: Best Books of 2014

Best books lists are a deeply flawed concept in a lot of ways. Reading’s not the priciest hobby, but buying a great number of new books, particularly the ones with buzz you inevitably hear about and must consider, takes a good deal of expenditure. Even if you buy tons of books, you need the time to read them — and there are always many you don’t get to. Comparing this book and that book is a fallacy anyway, because every person’s POV is different – and is effected by the person’s age, identity, situation and the circumstances around that particular read. It’s a fool’s game.

However, it’s also – and to me, this is the important bit – fun.

For me, these lists are really a starting place. A chance to open the conversation. And all the above, all the holes in the endeavour, perform a critical function: piercing the seriousness of it. After all, if there are so many things keeping these lists from meaning anything, they can mean whatever you like!

And I like it that way.

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WRITING: Stop Pretending Art is Hard

So quit the bitching on your blog
And stop pretending art is hard.
Just limit yourself to three chords
And do not practice daily!

– Amanda Palmer, Ukelele Anthem [2012]

This lyric, one of my favourites, is clearly bullshit, yes? Art is hard, right?

I mean, really. Art is totally, mindbreakingly difficult. Except when it’s astonishingly easy. Creating your next masterpiece can be easy as breathing one day, then you can find yourself struggling just to do anything the next. Art is easy and art is hard.

The thing is, that’s not what Palmer is saying here. She’s not saying, “Art is easy.”

Take another look – do not practice daily, she says. Why? Why is Amanda Palmer, an internationally known musician, recommending you buy a $20 ukelele and barely learn to play it?

Because she’s saying, “Art doesn’t have to be hard, doesn’t have to be good, to be worth the effort.”

She’s saying, play the ukelele badly as long as you play it. Sketch terribly as long as you sketch. Write and sing and dance and play terribly, because the art isn’t the thing, sometimes. Sometimes doing the art, creating the art, is the thing. Don’t give a shit if what you’re creating is worthwhile, sometimes, because it’s the process of being creative that enriches you and awakens you.

Plus: You can’t do good art until you do bad art. Just like, if you’re learning a language, there will be a time where you are terrible at speaking that language. But you keep going because you know, if you keep going, that you’ll be fluent.

(Unless you’re a savant and instantly are perfect at something. In which case, do me a solid and pick something you’re capable of being bad at, here.)

Good art is hard. And it takes work, and effort, and time, and probably money if you’re really serious about it.

But bad are, mediocre art, who gives a fuck art? That’s also important, because it takes the pressure off. There’s no audience, no grand goal, no big intention. Just you, creating something because you want to.

Buy a ukelele. Write some fanfiction. Sing in the shower. Write awkward, misshapen poetry about your earliest memory. Sketch some passing visual fancy of yours. Take photos of trees and street signs and your lunch. Create. Because creation is inherently valuable, even if you don’t share it, even if you aren’t trying to make Great Art. Instead, take some time to experience art.

Trust me. It’s worth it.