This may not work

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Since I decided to leave Twitter and abscond from Facebook I have been reminded of some of the guiding principles behind one of my favourite books from the last few years, Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception.

He has two chief arguments. First, we cannot afford to waste time in not making what he calls the ‘art’ (or contribution) that we feel called to make. Second, and paradoxically, we will never stop feeling Resistance (Steven Pressfield’s phrase) towards our desire to make it. Ergo, we need to begin, not wait around for inspiration or a rich patron or better circumstances to show up, because the chances are they won’t. According to both writers, two of the practical consequences of deciding (that word again) to do our work are that we do what we do in public, i.e. where it can be found, seen, appraised, rejected, praised or ignored by our peers, and that we need to get used to living with the tension that it might not work.

(To exemplify what I mean Jo Bell, Josephine Corcoran, Shawna Lemay and Simon Parke, four of of my favourite bloggers, are all brilliant examples of living and acting this way, of having an idea and seeing it through, come rain or shine, not waiting for the universe to give them permission.)

That was pretty much my first thought as my feet hit the floor yesterday. I feel it especially when I am tired. Or a bit morose. Or have just finished doing one thing and have not started the next job. Or on the weekends, when my ego feels it deserves a nice little morsel of something, like how many hits or retweets I have had.

It put me in mind of a marvellous sculpture I saw over the summer, Tara Donovan’s beautiful ‘Untitled (Plastic Cups)’ , made from placing 600, 000 plastic cups in the ballroom of a country house in Scotland. As you do. How many days did the artist show up for work and think: I wonder if this is working or not? Maybe every day. Maybe never. Maybe she is blessed with blissful self-confidence and bounds from project to project without ever looking over her shoulder and worrying how her work will be received. Maybe you are like that. I know that I am not. Practically everything I have ever done has been accompanied by lacerating self-doubt. But hey. As Anne Lamott says somewhere, it’s not like I have much of a choice. So I better just get on and do it. Or, as my children never tire of telling me: first world problems, dad. Get over it.

 

8 comments

  1. calmthings

    Great post, Anthony. I always think, if Virginia Woolf could feel doubt, why can’t I? Sometime I have talks with my old friend, Doubt. What would I do without her, my companion lo these many years……lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ggmissm

    Anthony – Seth Godin cuts through a lot of our wimpy excuses in “Icarus” and also with his daily blog. And at the same time, he gives us a little shred of the “invisibility cloak” though it might not feel that way. (Invisible so it doesn’t matter if we fail.) This is a terrific post, Anthony. I have a cup from the Wooden Boat show in Portland, Maine – a birthday gift a few years ago. It’s a simple cup, the kind you used to get in coffee shops all over America. It has four words on it and they inspire me every day: “Row hard. No excuses.”
    As always, Molly

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jen

    Even those of us blessed with “blissful” self-confidence (which I count myself among most days) have painful days, hours, moments of suffering ego. Needing acknowledgement. Questioning our purpose. (For me, it’s more hormonal related than anything else.) I’ve found that lately I tackle these moments best by noticing them, acknowledging them, and attempt to be less reactive and more contemplative. “Tomorrow you will feel different,” I tell myself. And usually I do

    Liked by 1 person

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