Daily Progress vs. The Perfection Method

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The sun’s rising. I’m drinking my tea. There’s a blanket over my legs and the dog is curled up beside me. For now, it’s quiet.

I was wondering what I would write about today, but that seems as good a start as any. I’m content.

Another week down. More words written, both here and in my new screenplay. Yesterday remained an up-and-down day for me. My brain was in a mood. That’s okay. I got through it. I took care of myself as best I could.

I talked to some friends, and to my wife. I asked for help. I asked for help — and my penis is still attached this morning, for anyone wondering.

As I suspect it might go for many, I have a tendency to collapse into the weekend. I think the main reason I found myself battling yesterday — was because I was tired. So I rested.

And I’m keeping a closer eye on the pattern. It’s no good to burn out early. I’m worried about that result, for myself. It’s happened before. I want better, now.

There are two main characteristics to being an independent artist. The first, obviously, is the independence.

Many of us gravitate towards unbeaten paths because we’re simply drawn there, must make our own trail, for any of a number of reasons. It’s important that we do this, for others as well as ourselves. I believe that.

But then there is also the complicated part of it. The necessity towards a sometimes unsparing utilitarianism, and towards sacrifice. Lacking context or proof of our reasons for going another way — we similarly lack the resources to give any one project as good as a go as we must, without trading in on our own body and spirit.

This breaks us down, I think, slowly, over time. It’s how many artists get swallowed up, become embittered. An embittered artist is perhaps as capable of committing as much damage, in their despair, as those that their work has or would have targeted in the past. Perhaps more.

One of the friends I spoke with last night brought up the idea of sustainability, a topic I’ve discussed here and on the podcast before.

The question we pondered was whether it was better to create a little bit, each day, refining and growing naturally over time — or to work exceedingly hard to perfect one big thing, perhaps over the same amount of time but in a way wherein we might be left understandably exhausted at the end.

Having tried on both methods, now, I tend to agree with my friend — that the first might be a better fit at present. There’s a great danger, when following the perfection method, to rationalize. It’s almost necessary.

I’m doing all this work to make this perfect, but once it’s perfect, then everything will fall into place.

Except that’s not a hard and fast rule. Further, we don’t get to decide what’s perfect.

That sunrise? This cup of tea. My dog and the chill quiet morning? Maybe that’s perfect.

If I were to make a little film for you, highlighting this same combination? Sure, perhaps it would come out “nice” — but it would might never capture the feeling I got, and perhaps was conjured in you, when we started off here.

Now, that’s a convenient example. My morning ritual isn’t inherently cinematic. But anything can be cinematic, with the right amount of work, the right talent applied. I could take up the challenge and direct and shoot and edit a short film about Morning Tea. 

But the amount of work it would take to do this flawlessly? The curse of filmmaking. Which by its nature depends very heavily on The Perfection Method.

I’m not setting up any grand revelation, to be clear. I don’t plan on quitting the game. I am exhausted by the game, though. I do have to admit that I find it much more soothing to make daily progress as a writer.

And yet, the highest spikes of traffic to this site (my hub as an artist) over the past three years, have been the releases of Multiverse, The Confession, and The Videoblogs. On its own, the separate site for The Videoblogs drew twice as many visitors in a few months than this site does in an average year.

So, maybe it’s about balance. And patience. Two characteristics that are quite new to my vocabulary. For most of my life, until now, I think I’ve confused perpetual frenzy with escape velocity. I felt that if I just worked a little harder, I’d be free and on my way.

But maybe it’s not a question of escape — of leaving the planet. Maybe it’s a long slow journey, to be savored even as certain legs take us up and along arduous peaks, and down into cold, rocky valleys.

It would make sense, this more earthbound analogy. It would explain the purer accessibility of the sun and the tea and the dog in the morning. It would place The Perfection Method into some approachable, quantifiable context. Such hard journeys aren’t usually taken alone — at least not by sane people — or in quick succession.

These two main characteristics of the independent artist — the freedom to work in new ways and towards new results, and the necessity of approaching this task with what’s available — they’re obviously closely related. But perhaps one can’t be leveraged in support of the other.

More likely, they’re two legs of a stool, with patience and balance making up the remaining two legs. Removing any one leg to buttress another won’t work. It will just throw off the effectiveness of the whole thing.

More to ponder.


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker 
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

 

When To Press On (And How and Why)

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Last night, the idea got into my head to skip today’s post. I’m not contracted to be here, either literally or by any promise made to continue last month’s experiment into October.

I thought to myself: you’re tired. It’s been a long day. Maybe, tomorrow, sleep in a little.

And yet, here I am. Because I want to be here.

You can’t force this sort of “discipline”, I don’t think. In line with yesterday’s post, though, and to speak to the power of streaks — I think there’s something to be said for fostering habits that are so deeply embedding in our sincere desires that any sustained daily practice, targeted at those desires, can develop the power to overcome daily obstacles.

Of course, there’s a fine line between finding the will to keep things moving — and forcing the issue. For a long time, I think I did too much of the latter and not enough of the former.

Sometimes we need to press on when we’re tired. It provides a private sort of moral victory, to do so. On other occasions, it’s more prudent to rest. If I were sick, for instance, it might have made more sense to sleep an extra thirty minutes to an hour.

But I got to bed early last night, and slept well. There’s some lingering exhaustion — yesterday was a long day — but I can take it easy and yet still do what I can.

So, here I am.

The reason I think this is important to talk about is because it can become very easy to put off what we want to do, when we are exhausted by our idea of what we feel we have to do. To be fair, the dance is not easy.

Yet there are ways to do what has to be done more efficiently. There are daily sacrifices that can be made that hardly remain as sacrifices over time, because their importance shrink in comparison to what is personally essential — and the room these create can be vast.

Finally, there are boundaries we can place around what we must protect, from day to day.

There are many things I think we tolerate, on average, that general fairness and decency would reveal as intolerable, if we stopped long enough to look at their effect on us in a rational, unsparing light.

To be specific, I see these things as the parade of distractions and triggers, engineered to keep many of us feeling overwhelmed, not enough, in need of reprieve. They are means of control.

By contrast, to follow our creative or other intrinsic instincts — these are not exercises in control, either of us or by us. They are wild, frightening, electric explorations of possibility.

This is why, I think, it’s important not to invite any reason to pause in the journey. To be alone with our desires and to move towards them can be frightening, but the essence of such pursuits bring some semblance of peace, in their truth.

11903868_10102022863132862_3363202786901023781_n-1My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.