Archive for February 2012
When I was a kid, I hated practice. hated it. (Probably the main reason I didn’t become a musician . . .that and the fact I have absolutely no sense of rhythm and couldn’t carry a tune in wheelbarrow). Doing the same thing over and over and over again drove me nuts! I was a firm believer in the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try something else”. It wasn’t that I was opposed to hard work; I was opposed to hard work that didn’t immediately (or in very short order) produce excellent, or at least good, results. I hadn’t yet learned the value of practice, or the technique involved in the process. It would be many years, and more missteps than I care to remember before I learned, quite by accident, how to practice.
Practice, as I have come to understand the process, isn’t about doing the same thing over and over again. It’s about learning a technique, a way of doing things that produces the desired results. Even after acheiving the desired results, you continue to practice; only now you’re learning to acheive those results time and time again. The idea behind practice is to build a body of knowledge, useful knowledge, that can be used to acheive a variety of results. The same technique for soldering jump rings, can be applied to making a bezel for setting a stone, or making a hollow-form ring; the techniques acquired through the practice of sawing metal can be used for cutting patterns as well as perfectly straight cuts. The knowledge one amasses through practice apply not only to making jewelry, or cooking, or writing, or any one of a million different things, but to ourselves as well.
Through practice, we learn the value of patience; the techniques we practice will, eventually, lead to the desired goal; maybe not today, or tomorrow, or the next day, but if we are patient the skills will come. We also learn the value of humility. We know there is no such thing as “overnight success”, that it takes time, often a very long time, to develop all the skills needed to acheive success. More than this, we learn to love the work for its own sake; to revel in the pleasure of seeing hard work come to fruition. I was re-reading Steve Pressman’s The War of Art the other day and came upon a passage I thought was more than a little interesting. I’m not going to quote the passage, but the gist of it is this: We, as artists or craftsmen, have no right to the rewards coming from our work, only the work itself.
When I think about craft, about metalwork, silversmithing, when I think about any skill that develops over time, I know the practitioner, the craftsman/woman practiced his or her technique(s) for a very long time (and continues to practice everyday) not because they thought they would become famous or rich or popular. There’s too much work involved to be obsessed with such transient goals. They do what they (and I) do for no other reason than they love the work.
Actually, it’s been helluva long time since I’ve taken the time to post anything here. Part of it has to do with “personal stuff” and part of it has to do with burn out. I know what you’re thinking, “How can you burn out after so few posts?!” Well, I’ll tell you, those “few” posts pretty much “shot my wad” for witty, insightful writing. I friend of my told me each of those posts could be stretched to ten, there was so much in them. I’ve never been one to be short-winded or concise, so I just kept writing each post until I ran the original thought out to its logical (to me, at least) conclusion. Before I knew it, I’d run out of stuff to say.
Part of the problem was I tried to make the blog relevant to a single theme or idea; originally intended to address the concerns of the un-under-employed, I thought to keep everything aimed in that direction. Silly me!! What I failed to realize, and have since come to understand (sort of), is that people have lives to live, not just work or the lack of it. They’re really not interested in statistics on unemployment, of forecasts predicting how long the current “economic downturn” will last. What they want to know is, “How do I deal with all this shit!!” The simple truth of the matter is I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. How you deal with all the crap you have to put up with on a day-to-day basis is something you have to work out for yourself. All I know is what I did and what I continue to do to keep myself from becoming a drooling, used-to-be human being.
For the last few months I’ve been, figuratively speaking, Walking the Cat. . .trying to figure out what it is I’m supposed to be doing with my life. There are a number of things I enjoy doing; reading, writing, etc. . .I enjoy shooting pool and making things. I spent thirty years of my life as a culinary professional, developed a skill-set I thought was applicable only to cooking. Turns out I was wrong. The skills I developed during thirty years of cooking have helped me stay sane, allowed me to develop new passions and new opportunities and, (this is one of the most important things I’ve learned), given me a renewed sense of myself, a renewed feeling of worth.
How this came about is what this blog will be about. . .it’ll be about growing as a person, learning new things and taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves and creating new opportunities when they don’t. It’s about accepting change and making the change(s) work for you.
That’s about all I have for this post. I’ll start telling my story with my next post. . .that will be on Friday. you might want to stop by and see what’s cooking.