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Mindful Slogging

October 22, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

David Young
The American portrait painter Chuck Close famously, and accurately, pronounced: ‘Inspiration is for amateurs’. What does this mean, exactly?


It means that a serious practitioner of any creative art– be it painting, writing, dance or chain saw sculpture – must be prepared to sail the dark ocean alone, most days without any flashes of inspiration to light the way. Most of the time there will be nothing to guide or empower your journey except your dogged determination to keep at it, no matter what. It’s an acquired taste, this mindful slogging into the unknown which is at the core of all artistic practice. Recognizing and honouring the ancient lineage of your determination can be a source of considerable joy and energy.

The determination to shape something useful and beautiful from the products of the mind is as old as the first campfire where skilled hands fashioned Mastodon ivory into an amulet designed to keep the sun in the sky. “I am making something larger than myself. It is ancient work.” Carry this simple thought in your pocket like a pebble from the river and you will have all the inspiration you need to keep the dragons of anxiety and doubt at bay. Every day try to make something beautiful and useful. A single sentence will do. The determination to create something against all odds is in and of itself a form of inspiration.

You don’t need to know where you’re going to keep going. Tame the dragons with your determination. Inspire yourself with your own hard work in the face of doubt and difficulty. When inspiration finally does arrive, unannounced and unbidden, you will be prepared (thanks to your mindful slogging) to receive the flash of deep insight with a  strong, clear mind and put it to good use.

David Young

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Playwright David Young will be blogging in this space from October - November, 2011 as Toronto Reference Library's Playwright-in-Residence.