Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Genius of Showing Up

Colin's Ode to Dead Bunny
This photo represents the 10% inspiration that Thomas Edison talked about.  This is my 8 year old being sugar-cookie inspired by the new Green Day album that came out today, "Awesome As F**K". (We can talk about my obvious merits as a mother another day....)

Now I know you'd rather look at pretty pictures here: maybe a great swath of groovy wallpaper or photos from a town you might want to visit, or the lines of a sweet, quiet vase.  Who wouldn't rather suck on some eye candy than listen to me talk about air-kicking the kiln when I hear a bad "pinging" sound.  (You potters out there know what bad "pinging" is...I can tell...I can hear you cringing.)

But I want to talk about the other 90%: perspiration.

Inspiration and creativity are the catalysts behind most of what we all do, artists or not.  What haircolor/paintcolor/offcolor remark do we choose? How do we convince our kids that reading is better than playing Super Mario Brothers?  How can we sell more widgets?  What deliciousness are we making for dinner?

But let's face it: you can't walk around in an inspired dreamlike state 24/7.  It's impossible.  Sometimes you gotta be practical.   You have to show up.  You have to do the work.  Those crappy, mundane tasks. The sweat. The pain in the ass jobs. You have to clean the tools, mix the glaze, and schlep yet another bag of garbage up the basement steps.

So when I'm cranky when I have to make test tiles again, or source a better box for my candles, or spend a morning at the wheel with only a few measly pieces to show for it, I gotta remember: showing up is, in fact, what makes the pretty things.  The showing up is what makes it all go.  Making test tiles shows me how nicely gun metal green will layer over Archie's Base.  Searching for a new box source might save me a hundred bucks over a year (the cost of many pounds of clay).  And when I throw, no matter how long, I'm making muscle memory, and decreasing my blood pressure.

And after a while, when you show up on a regular basis, something surprising happens.  You're sitting there, minding your own business, showing up.  You're cleaning out the extruder or stirring the soup or entering numbers into that Excel spreadsheet.  And there it is: maybe lightning, or more likely, an idea that might not suck.  You think those kinds of kernels live out in the open?  Uh UH.  They're shy.  They live in the dark corners of our minds, and they only show themselves when we're not thinking about them.  And that's when the perspiration becomes inspiration.