"Practicing is training; practicing is meditation and therapy. But before any of these, practicing is a story you tell yourself, a bildungsroman, a tale of education and self-realization. For the fingers as for the mind, practicing is an imaginative, imaginary arc, a journey, a voyage. You must feel that you are moving forward. But it is the story that leads you on. . . From the outside, practicing may not seem like much of a story. . . Yet practicing is the fundamental story. Whether as a musician, as an athlete, at your job, or in love, practice gives direction to your longing, gives substance to your labor."
--Glenn Kurtz, 'Practicing.'
I recognize the daily labor of creation in Glen Kurtz's description of practice as the "truth of who you are, today, as you strive to change, to make yourself better. . ." It is frightening when you feel alone and without success to keep on working. You wonder if all will be for naught, if your attempt to sing will come out as silence, like the barely heard voice of Josephine the mouse singer in Kafka's story. But Josephine's song, though weak and barely audible, moved her people's hearts as no other did. And I think the ability to continue working, to keep practicing, comes from the hope that what one is attempting to describe through one's work may someday end up holding meaning in another person's life, and perhaps even offer "consolation for broken hearts," as Van Gogh put it so eloquently. One of my college art professors said that it is in the most specific that we reach the universal. Our lives are unique and yet they are also repetitious in the great human pattern: birth, love, illness, work, death. The attempt at honesty and sincerity in one's work, no matter what kind of work it may be, is worth all the doubt and fear and struggle behind it. Because without that struggle, anonymous, alone, where would the poetry of Emily Dickinson or the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh be? If they had given up because they lived no public life and achieved no public success, what consolation and understanding and heart-felt images would now be sorely lacking.
Vincent Van Gogh Vase of Irises oil on canvas 1890
Vincent Van Gogh Irises oil on canvas 1889
Vincent Van Gogh Vase of Irises on a Yellow Background oil on canvas 1890