Sometimes it takes something totally outside your wheelhouse, to get you thinking more about your own life.
This weekend it was reading about Christie’s $69 million sale of an NFT artwork by an artist that works by the name Beeple. It seems nothing about this story could be further from my life. Yet as I read on, he has a normal name, a family, and a simple artistic discipline. To create one small thing everyday. Sound familiar? Only he did it for 5,000 days, which is over 13 years. This month, by turning this body of work into a remarkable collage-turned-non-fungible-token, he reaps the rewards through this sale.
Now, I have no intention to enter the world of NFT’s. Nor do I ever expect to get rich from my art. But what I can borrow from this story is the idea of discipline.
Another example, also far from my own experience yet quite more close to home, is Suleika Jaouad. Many readers know of her Isolation Journals blog and her book Between Two Kingdoms. Currently suffering a hard recuperation from her SECOND bone marrow transplant, she is living and sharing a similar artistic discipline. Suleika warmly and generously creates a virtual community and brings anyone along who is willing to try. She plans to work at her art every day for 100 days. She writes and she paints. If she is very ill, she will paint one palm frond, one cloud. But she will lift the brush. Everyday.
Through many years I considered I had an artistic “soul” but was too busy doing other things to be an artist. I also used to imagine that the perfect creation could come like a thunderbolt at any time, to be simply captured. I dabbled. I got more serious with my writing group of teachers. I got more experience with discipline with this March challenge.
I learned that art is a muscle that requires exercise. I learned that some good work can come from a moment of utter lack of inspiration. I learned the value of trying out different things playfully, fully expecting them to be awful. I learned that I got better over eight years of writing everyday in March, and that I’m still not very good. I learned the value of having a supportive community. I learned that it is the writing that is its own reward.
Now I approach retirement from my teaching job and will never again have the excuse of time. Will I BE a writer, or not? It is solely my choice. What I now ask myself is, will I choose to live a life of writing, a disciplined life?
Years ago I printed this picture off of a blog I read by Austin Kleon. I taped it onto my bathroom cabinet door so I see it all the time. It says, “If you want to be the noun, first do the verb.” Or, you can use the short Nike version “Just DO it.” Whatever it is you choose. Over and over.
Find the original of Austin Kleon’s work at: