Betting on the Come

“The Midnight Sun”
copyright 2021, Molly Larson Cook
30 x 24, Acrylic and ink

We are in-between with the pandemic now. Many of us have our vaccinations and life is beginning to take on the aspect of the familiar. But not quite. Galleries are re-opening and we may soon be able to invite people to our studios. But not quite.

I currently have no shows scheduled, so I am continuing to work in solitude, betting on the come as they say. Mine was a poker-playing family, and that kind of risktaker’s bet is not unknown to me.

Years ago, quite by accident, I was hired to teach a workshop on Risktaking, based on my experience as a groundbreaking female entrepreneur. This was a while ago; now there are legions of us. (What does all this have to do with art, I hear you ask. Wait for it…wait for it…)

When preparing for the workshop, I reviewed my own Risktaking skills and then learned a lot more about it. The two big neon-lit pieces of advice I discovered are “Never risk a lot for a little,” and “Never risk more than you can afford to lose.”

This all came back to me this morning when I read the closing lines from the fine Bayles & Orland must-have book for artists, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING.

Risktaking has everything to do with art.

And I remembered one of the other things I learned back then, something every jazz musician already knows: “If you know the outcome before you start, it’s not a risk.”

I can say with no hesitation, speaking for myself, that the unknowing is where all the joy waits.

Once in a while I start a piece and quickly decide it’s “finished.” The problem for me is that the “early finish” pieces generally have no life to them. No risks. Nothing in them really calls to me. They’re not finished at all. They may have something in one corner or another that I like, but that’s not enough. Never enough.

Bayles & Orland put it better than anyone I know. It’s so good, I’ve mentioned this to my readers before, but sometimes once is really not enough:

In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy or not giving it your best shot – and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice.”

Amen and indeed!

Over the years, I went on to teach the Risktaking workshop on both coasts to a variety of audiences and in one glorious moment to the RCA Artists & Repertoire (A&R) Jazz staff in Manhattan at the request of Ethel Gabriel who signed all kinds of jazz artists for RCA.

As one of the bright songs from the musical “Starting Here, Starting Now,” has it:

“You don’t have to sing/You don’t have to dance/But nothing will happen/’Til you take a chance.”

Sing, dance, paint, play. Take that chance on love! Uncertainty will be the comforting choice.

2 thoughts on “Betting on the Come

  1. Janice – thank you for the message…I can only speak for myself, but I do believe all creative activity is a risk and sometimes the risk involves family. I think you’re right about “nothing lasts forever” when it comes to your son’s view of your work. My wonderful Jewish mentor once told our short fiction class to never show your family your work. “Your family wants to cut off your feet!” Perhaps you can assure him that poetry and fiction are not memoir and not revisionist. Or, as we are being told more and more often, our memories will be different of the same events. Both versions matter and speak their truth.

    Keep writing…and as an old friend, now gone, signed his letters…I send peace, love, courage.


  2. Right on, as always, Molly…I consider myself a ‘cautious risktaker, willing to come out of my comfort zone to see what will happen. Often the risk is worth it with no regrets and even if it doesn’t work out it’s okay to say I did it.

    I’m a different kind of artist, as you know, a wordsmith of sorts, something I attribute to you. What I’ve learned in this new world of word artists is that things are never finished, even when they are submitted or published. However, just making an effort to share my words with others is a risk.

    Unfortunately for me, in my euphoria of this new world, I’ve gained the enmity of my eldest son who considers my compositions–poems, essays, memoirs–revisionist, and now refuses to communicate directly with me. This case of painful non-communication and separation has resulted in heartbreak, but as we both know, nothing lasts forever.

    Thanks for this forum, Molly. I always enjoy reading your reflections, although sometimes weeks later.

    Stay safe my friend and be as normal as possible.

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