Fledgling red wing blackbird
All the years I was a writer and especially when I was working on my one published novel (there are others in boxes or my computer files), I discovered an odd emotion that came when I knew a passage was right. Dead-on right. When the pieces clicked together not in the “well-made” sense, which is death to good writing, but in the “now the gears are meshing perfectly” sense.
Call it inspiration, call it a gift from the Goddess, call it anything you like, but the feeling is undeniable. Until now that feeling has eluded me with the art.
I often remind you – and myself – that I’m a fledgling. And then I remember a man my first art teacher told me about. “He always takes the beginning class. He’s been doing it for years.” She told me he was a good artist, but didn’t have the confidence to go to the next level.
Maybe the breakthrough came a week or so ago when I did the “What the hell, why not?” paint-throwing bit. Maybe I’ve been learning more than I realized with the practice of developing my body of art. Maybe it’s good luck.
Writer John Gardner said, “Good luck is nothing but being in shape to act with the Universe when the Universe says, ‘Now!’ “
I’ve been working this week on two pieces I’m entering in a juried show here in San Diego. One of them was already finished (I thought) from an earlier exercise and fit the theme of the show. The other is a new piece created just for this occasion. Both were a stretch for me, but I felt good about them.
Last night, I called them good enough. And then another thing from writing days hit me. Good enough is not the same as good. Something was missing in each of them, but I had no idea just what. A few ideas came but I hesitated and went to bed to sleep on them.
This morning I knew what was missing, but the idea was risky. I knew that if I screwed the paintings up at this late moment, just a couple of days before I have to deliver them to the jury, I’d regret it. But a bigger push was working on me: I knew that if I didn’t take the risk, I’d regret it even more. I’ve taught other people how to take good risks and I weighed this one carefully.
I mixed the paint, picked up my brush, took a breath and said softly, “What the hell, why not?”
I didn’t change anything big in either piece. These were finishing touches, but the kinds of finishing touches that change everything.
I thought of Hemingway who said the biggest problem with writing was getting the words right. Same thing here. And then, as I stepped back from the paintings, I felt it: The sense of rightness. The sense of gears meshing and clicks clicking, followed immediately by that odd emotion. I can only describe it as the kind of relief one might feel after crossing a chasm on a high and shaky bridge. A little giddy, a little scared, crazy happy and wanting to try it again right away!
I’m still a fledgling, but I know one good new thing today. Take the risks. I’m going to make a sign and put it next to my easel. I don’t plan to stay in the beginner’s class – or the nest – forever.