Some time ago I read an excellent book entitled Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision by Ian Roberts. Only one of the principles has stayed with me, and obviously for me it is the most important: Showing Up. Never mind about talent or technique, the most important thing is to show up, every day, consistently, again and again. Whether it is painting, playing music, writing, meditating or even doing a blog!
The trick is to keep at it. When I am practising scales on the saxophone it doesn’t seem obvious what the point is. When you sit in silence struggling with your restless agitated mind it will feel as if it’s getting you nowhere. When you’ve tried unsuccessfully to paint a rose over and over again, you’ll think it’s all just waste of time. But when I eventually play with someone and a bit of magic happens, or a painting comes out of nowhere, the point becomes clear.
In her autobiography of her years with Frank Zappa, Pauline Butcher tells a story of when Mick Jagger visited. Frank played a piece and Mick asked him how long it took him to write it. Frank replied:
“‘A few hours.’
‘I can do that too, but never when I’m happy. It’s strange, when things are peaceful, I can’t get anything down.’
‘Makes no difference to me what mood I’m in. I can work all day, every day.’”
It reminds me of the poor spider who lives in the cover of my wing-mirror. Every day he spins a web across the front of the mirror and then hides inside. Every day I destroy it, because it obscures my view. And every morning it’s back again.
To me, this is the key to genius. Patience and persistence.
Einstein spent years trying to imagine what it would be like to ride on a beam of light and ended up with theory of relativity.
I only wish I could take Roberts’ advice.