Gridsters · Quilts

Getting the Work Done: Artist vs. Addict

Frivols 7_19

A recent reviewer of Steven Pressman’s book Turning Pro, pointed out that:
“What is distraction, if not self-sabotage, sabotage of one’s future self?”   Pressman, who wrote the War of Art, a must-read for creatives,  writes about about the difference between being an artist and being an addict, about the difference between being a professional (focused on the work) and an amateur (talking about the work, but not really doing it).

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Pressman has written three books, and as another reviewer described them:

The War of Art discusses the decision to start, while [his second book] Do the Work takes on the concept of sustaining the discipline it takes to finish a piece of work. Turning Pro takes things up a notch by insisting the artist must establish a rigid discipline and trust the Muse.”

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It’s easy to forget why we work at something.  There we are, putting our focus on our machines and in our sewing spaces, cutting and sewing, and all of a sudden, it’s oh wait a minute, let me check what my friends on Instagram are doing.

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According to Pressman, that doesn’t get the work done.  What it does do instead, is turn our work, our lives, our posts into an endless loop of sort of getting things done, but not really forging ahead into new places.

As Jocelyn K. Glei put it, “I was particularly struck by his distinction between “the artist” and “the addict,” wherein the former is living out a productive, creative career, while the latter is caught in an endless loop of aspiration and yearning that never gets backed up with meaningful action. Glei also noted that: “The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a “life,” a “character,” a “personality.”  Using the term “shadow novel,” he draws out the life of a person is sort of working towards something, but not really.  Like I was after grad school: wanting to be an author, but not writing a word.

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I soon figured out that being a fiction writer was not the direction I was doing to go. I was able, however, to take my MFA training and love of the written word, combine it with sewing, in order to write about quilting — a completely unplanned, but incredibly satisfying endeavor.

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Frivols #7, in process

Cindy and I have talked more than once about the world of social media (namely Instagram) and how it sometimes interferes with getting the work done.  I love a good stroll through the posts as much as anyone, and I love to read blogs and see what creative juice is running through my community.

I recently watched the entire launch video of IGTV, that futzy little button in the top right of your screen.  As they went through all the scenes of creators (our new name, I guess), I realized that they were all barely older than my grandchildren…and with that realization came the understanding that IG “allowed” me to have my community, but what they were really about was the selling of “new media,” geared to “young influencers” gaining followers, gaining media attention and earning money.  Hence, the screwed up IG feed for the rest of us.

Chronology is out.  Connectiveness is in (which is different from “connections”).  Process is out.  Profits are in, including the data mining of all our click and taps and touches.

July 2018 Gridsters _ Leisa
Gridsters Bee Block for Leisa–July 2018

What does this have to do with artist/professional vs. addict/amateur?

As Pressman states, “The artist and the professional, on the other hand, have turned a corner in their minds. They have grown so bored with themselves…What were once their shadow symphonies become real symphonies. The color and drama that were once outside now move inside….When we [choose being an Artist], the energy that once went into the Shadow Novel goes into the real novel. What we once thought was real – “the world,” including its epicenter, ourselves – turns out to be only a shadow. And what had seemed to be only a dream, now, the reality of our lives.

It’s all about where you focus, where you put your attention.  Make use of the tools that help you, but don’t let them dominate allotted time, or dilute creative energy.



11 thoughts on “Getting the Work Done: Artist vs. Addict

  1. While I do not consider myself an artist or an addict for that matter, I certainly agree that productivity increases when all your focus is applied to the task at hand! I guess you needed a lot of focus to get those HSTs pieced and trimmed!

  2. So interesting. I don’t think I fit into either category, and have discovered that I’m extremely grateful I don’t do quilting as a business. I already feel like I have lots of quilty things that demand my attention, so I can’t imagine what it must be like for those struggling to make a living at it – designing patterns (Is there anything truly new under the sun?), designing fabric, long arming… selling, selling, selling. Lately I tend to take little interest in those who are trying to promote what they have to sell. I quilt for pleasure, and always will. Just don’t let me get caught up in another quilt-along, challenge, or BOM. When that happens, I’m done for!

  3. That’s a lot to think about. I do know that I get a lot more accomplished without the internet or social media, but I love the interactions it provides. I also love the process of creating and trying new things. An artist or an addict I will never be as my life is too full. Thank goodness!

    Love your bee block and those cute little HSTs.

  4. Not everyone who is creative is also interested in maintaining the single focus of an “artist.” Not everyone has the same priorities. I think it’s fine to split one’s time and energy on creative work and drudge work and social time and family obligations and any of the other ways we use our time. And most people are reasonably realistic about the fact that they make choices that way. However, I do think some people talk big when in truth they aren’t willing to follow through. And I guess, that’s okay, too. 🙂

  5. At the end of the day, if what we do – artist or addict – makes us happy, isn’t that the important thing? And again, whether artist or addict, I think the mantra “starve your distractions and feed your focus” is applicable. Thanks, Elizabeth, for another thought-provoking post!

  6. I’ve got to share this with my artist son. We were just having a conversation along these lines.

  7. Interesting! I might be a little bit artist and a little bit addict, but I am staying well away from ‘influencer’! The other day, I was pondering why I spend time not sewing but reading about sewing on social media or sharing what I make: community.

  8. 100%! I also think this is to blame partially for the current decline in the quilt market. To some extent, I think there was too much too soon, but also I think we’re all exhausted by looking at new fabrics and patterns and never actually making anything. I’m actually writing a magazine piece on this for next year!

  9. Ah, so true! I had read Pressman and for the last few years have been following Jessica Abel (Growing Gills) who does webinars and workshops on pretty much the same topic. Of course that also means I should be sewing (or in bed asleep) rather than reading this Frivols series but I’m enjoying it too much to stop now! Guess I’ll remain an Amateur for at least one more day!!

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