As I’m up late in the evening, chatting with a long-time friend in Sydney, Australia, I ask her, “How is tomorrow? Am I in for a better day?!” She laughs (as you can on facebook messaging, I mean, really – texting is great but it only goes so far; I wish I could see her face and give her a hug!), then I look at this post and where I was going with horses, people, and art, and wonder to myself, “Does any of this make sense?!”
I think of the conceptual artist and minimalist, Sol LeWitt – maker of lines and shapes in pencil, crayon, and paint. A guy who holed-up, creating in the LES (Lower East Side) of Manhattan on Hester – before those shoe boxes became sought after commodities. What would he think? Would he care that I just overlaid one of his works on my horse to make a point? Probbbbably not.
The only reason I say that (and how dare I assume; we all know what that does, but what the hell…) is because he and Eva Hesse, a contemporary and friend, shared some pretty rad letters of encouragement back in the 60’s as they went on to become two of the most influential artists of the century. The contents of those letters is what leads me to my formidable assuming, and eventual point.
I have to share them for two reasons: one, because they are awesome, and two, they are awesome.
But first, let me preface the sharing of the letters with a Parable of a Cowgirl who happens to love horses, people & art (the listing order of importance depends on the day and her mood, mind you). When training a horse, the some-1,000 lb animal doesn’t so much learn from the pressure you apply (of pulling, pushing, poking, squeezing, kicking, “encouraging”) as they do from the release of it. I’ve been riding a lot while out of the city and in the country for a bit. My parents’ stallion & mare got together and had a baby filly this Summer, too, so training is on the brain. That, and the thought of pressure (or rather, the release of it) and how it applies to personal growth and creative productivity.
Whether riding or not, my mind is often racing, it’s an unruly animal that needs training just as much as that naughty little filly. I told you about my thoughts on water, right? (And how our inner words and emotions can affect our bodies.) Can you imagine what would happen if we let all the pressure, stress, worry and anxiety that runs around in the ol’ noggin get the better of us? I’ve let it go pretty far on occasion, and this is my hypothesis. I would become a static, non-functioning human “living” entirely in my brain. All of my creative ideas would be born there, and die there… all of my physical actions and interactions would be re-played and re-hashed in my mind until it was like “Ground Hog Day” the movie: over and over, and over and over again. I would sit, paralyzed with fear, heart-pounding, and shortness of breath; experiencing hours of never ending, erratic, non-sensical patterns of worry, excitement, worry, and destruction.
Or [!!!] I could choose to release the pressure and DO. Get up, move forward, get over myself and my unavoidable failures, and hopeful desires, and just DO.
It’s not super simple or super easy to just flip a switch and “turn-off” the self-indulgent pressure, to DO something else, but making the choice is WORTH it, and the rest will come in time. I’m learning (just like my horse!). I’ll refrain from referencing Merrium-Webster, but according to me, do·ing ( /ˈdo͞oiNG/ ) means productivity, do·ing means mistakes, and do·ing means growth. Do·ing is learning, succeeding, failing, making, connecting, living, risking, allowing and being.
Do·ing also means being willing. Doing is not “trying”, Yoda taught us that! Don’t be fooled, “trying” is a polite way of saying you’re not going to follow-through. Oddly enough, doing isn’t always an active task, and certainly doesn’t mean meddling with things better left up to God or the Universe, or another person’s free will and personal journey. Sometimes doing is asking for help from others, or a higher source.
My point?! I’m not some guru or enlightened being. I believe we are all one, made of the same stuff, affecting each other and going through this human experience together. Perhaps we should lighten up a little and pull the cord on the pressure cooker. Decide to learn by doing: make mistakes, make something fabulous, or a flop (who cares!), connect with people that matter to you even if you’re afraid (share time with them in person if possible – the digital world is handy for surface connection, but it can be isolating – make a phone call or write a real letter if you can’t physically touch them, hear their voice, or look them in the eyes!), or if it’s time to let go of the reins and give the other person a chance to lead and share their desire then “do” that. Either way, release the pressure in your mind and your life, and explore this crazy balance of action and inaction. To me, “doing” or perhaps we could just say “living”, is a complex idea, but simple in practice… the winning formula might just be a willingness to work + a lot of faith.
And now, the letters (from artist, Sol LeWitt to artist, Eva Hesse, circa the 1960’s)… hope you enjoy!
“Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!…
Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety…
You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!…
Try to do some BAD work – the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell – you are not responsible for the world – you are only responsible for your work – so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be…
I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before you work you have to empty your mind and concentrate on what you are doing. After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work – not even to yourself.”