Sunday, 16 March 2014

Journeys & destinations

When I was 21 I was in the production team of a very bizarre radio programme that some of my Italian friends might remember, called "Un certo discorso" (what would a good translation be? "A certain topic", perhaps? It never occurred to me to find out what it really meant). We used to go live on air for an hour and a half everyday. One evening we found out we had nothing ready for the next day, and I volunteered to write the script for the show. I went home and sat in front of my typewriter (as you did), and stared at it intently. I really, really stared at it. Mmmm. Then I put a piece of paper in and started typing. About nothing. About having nothing to say and very little time to say it in, and yet having to drag this nothing to say long enough to cover 1 and 1/2 hours of air time. And I did, I wrote over ten pages about, well, writer's block and having nothing to say, etc. When the show went on air, a few journalists who were listening on their car stereos had a near accident. They could relate to the desperation of blank page/time pressure. Very often it's not that you have nothing to say, but that you don't know how to say it, or you see a problem, you want to write about the solution and not the problem, but the solution is not coming, and then you question whether the problem was formulated right. As I don't dislike talking about nothing, non stories, non event, non ideas, I hardly ever get stuck these days. Yet it's happening today. So, stop driving while you are reading this and help me out. Yes, I shall ask you to solve my problem. Here it is: the saying is that it is the journey that counts, not the destination. But would you start a journey if you knew that the destination was unreachable or disappointing? Let's say that you are an artist and your destination is very simply to be happy with your finished work, which is not happening, and that your journey is an irritating voice in your head saying, "This is wrong, the nose is much shorter, the right eye bigger, the building straighter, oh no, it doesn't look anything like it. NO, NO, NO!" OK, so if the destination is disappointing and the process so annoying, should an artist continue to work? Here, I am going to help you helping me with some questions to look at, Who chooses the destination? I can set a goal that I am not reaching and yet reach goals that I haven't set. What is the journey? Is it the irritating Leonardo voice shouting at you that you are less skilled at drawing than your fluffy toys? Or the observing? The exciting search for that ever eluding magical art supply? The alluring blank sketchbook that promises to collect the sweetest of memories?
I painfully discovered that I don't like flicking through my sketchbooks and that my Leonardo voice is awfully difficult to switch off. I keep my sketchbooks in a box, but I don't feel any pride looking at it. Am I looking at destinations and journeys in the wrong way? Should I not do art if it doesn't give ME pleasure? But it does give me pleasure, it gives me a dialogue with my surroundings, things to look forward to, and masses of toys to dream a magical world with. Not to mention the friendship with fellow travellers. I guess I envy artists who are happy in the creative process and are proud of their results, but perhaps you've got to accept your pain as part of your artistic self, and say, "So what if I don't like my sketchbooks, so what if Leonardo thinks so poorly of me, there still a lot of good in what I do."

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