Sunday, December 27, 2020


I'm reading The View From the Studio Door by Ted Orland. I picked it up after I finished Art and Fear by Orland and David Bayles. These seem like the right books for December. I'm a sucker for New Year's resolutions, but to resolve anything means reflecting on the year before, and these books have helped put a lot of things into focus.

Orland makes a good case for productivity as a necessary factor in creating good work. "Productivity" seems to be a buzzword right now, particularly in the business world, where it's ended up meaning something close to "getting more done in less time for the sake of making more money."

But in the creative sense, "productivity" means something maybe more along the lines of "making enough garbage that you get to something good." It's the effort that logically follows from Sturgeon's Law. If 90% of everything is crap, then to make one piece of good work you have to make nine heaps of shit. It's got nothing to do with your talent or skill. It's just the way it is.

What logically follows from that is that creating good work is the byproduct of structuring your time in such a way as to maximize your ability to create work period. That's where the New Year's resolutions come in. Because what I'm thinking about today is how to create better creative habits. Here's Orland, from The View From the Studio Door:

"The creative process unfolds as you find the essential tools in your toolkit ... most of all, it means finding a way to live your life so that you can engage again and again the things you care about most. Conversely, failure to find a viable working process turns would-be artists into ex-artists long before they get anywhere near their best work. ... 

What [this] means is that to make your own place in the world, you'll probably need to create a life in which working on your art becomes a natural part of your everyday life. ... There's no predicting how any individual life will play out, but there is a guiding principle for reaching the best of possible outcomes: stay at work on the things that are really important to you, and you will reach your potential as an artist."

(Excuse my elisions for the sake of brevity. The whole book is worth reading if you haven't already. Find it here.)

People Watching

On Wednesday, I went out to meet up with a friend and do some writing. We met at the Athenaeum, a historic building in Indianapolis designed...