Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"The one issue that really counts..."

Over at Filmwell, Jeffrey Overstreet posted a passage from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, which he calls "a great book of wisdom for artists of any kind.

The lesson here is simply that courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts — namely, whether or not you’re making progress in your work. They’re in a good position to comment on how they’re moved (or challenged or entertained) by the finished product, but have little knowledge or interest in your process. Audience comes later. The only pure communication is between you and your work.

Very good quote. Central to the way I think about my work as an actor, playwright, director.

Awards, reviews, standing ovations, even praise from peers, are all fickle adjudicators. Artists need to cultivate a radical aversion to extrinsic rewards, and learn to derive all their motivation from the pleasure, challenge, fulfillment, engagement of the task itself, and the life it kindles in them.

My one quibble would be the writers' emphasis on "making progress" in one's work. I don't even buy that. Comparisons - not only of my work with the work of others, but of my present work with my past work - are odious, and one always runs the risk of getting outside the work and assessing / criticizing instead of staying inside it and simply doing it.

The only thing to focus on is the work itself, and doing it to the limit of one's ability. And thanking God for the opportunity.

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