Dig deeper and/or let it go

Feeling stuck because of overthinking? You might think you have two options. Dig deeper or let it go. But there might be another way.

What I find important for me is that I’m not able to let go of things I’m overthinking about easily. The best strategy is in fact to let it go for a while and wait for whether it comes back. If it does, it means it’s really important; if it doesn’t, well, it’s been let go.

And when it comes back, with the time distance, it doesn’t come back exactly as how it was. The new aspect of it might just be the crack of the shell that I was looking for to solve the problem. Or it might be the crack through which I can see a new world.

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How to make it work?

I don’t have the answer. That’s why there’s a question mark in the title.

But I know how it won’t work.

It won’t work if the idea remains a thought, a dream, or even turning into a nightmare. (Because… you know, unfulfilled things might hunt you.)

It won’t work if you take one step forward and stops when it gets a little bit harder.

It won’t work if you get a bit sweetness out of a short period of hard work and then call it a day — and you are doing it not because you are satisfied, but because you are afraid of failing.

It won’t work if you think it’s too much to ask for life to give you what you really want. “I have this so it’s not fair to ask for that.” Who are you taking it from?

It won’t work if you don’t have a structure — any structure — when you have more than one thought in your head, more than one thing you need to do a day.

It won’t work if you put (imagined) others in the spotlight of your life.

It won’t work if you are a closed person.

It won’t work if you are too careless.

It won’t work if you can too much.

It won’t work if you take yourself and life too seriously.

It won’t work if you don’t have a brake.

It won’t work if you pulling the brake the whole time.

So how can you make it work?

I’m really asking.

A double life of a wanna-be artist

You are working on your dream project. You are finally writing that poetry collection, that novella, learning how to play guitar, how to do oil painting, you are taking singing lessons…

… in secret.

Oh you are more than ok to share what you are doing with strangers, though. Actually, you are desperate for more attention from “an audience” — the bigger the audience, the better! As long as none of them know you from work, school, or… reality.

It’s like you are living two different lives. It’d be ideal if they don’t have any overlap with the other. Until… in your secret life, you’ve made it. Then you will be ok with the people in your “real life” finding out about your success.

But not before that.

You probably don’t want to admit it. But you are hiding. This is something new in the age of Internet. You can hide what you are doing from the world around you, by just not telling your family and friends.

You feel like a superhero, living the double life. “Peter Parker didn’t want his aunt and MJ find out that he was Spiderman for a reason.”

A good reason.

“What would they think of me? They will judge me because I’m putting myself out there and making myself look bad and they will laugh at me or think I’m a poser and loser…”

Yeah, right. Hello, ego.

The truth is, they will not be thinking or talking about you, much.

And you think you are reaching for the stars and actually wanting to become something, while in reality you are the boring person who’s doing nothing but staying within the lines.

The time you are busy trying to hide your talent and effort and artistic endeavours from the others is wasted. Because they don’t have time to care about you, for they are probably busy with hiding what they really want from you.

So you can tell your ego to stop making your life harder than it already is. You might feel like a superhero living a double life, but you are not really Spiderman. By telling the people you know and coming out of hiding, not so much is at stake but your own ego.

Your precious idea

The idea in your head. The precious one. “It’s big. World-changing. It means something.”

“At least it’s going to be life-changing for me.”

Yes, that’s the one.

But it’s so precious so you have to be cautious. Put it in a beautiful box and lock it in your drawer.

Don’t disturb it. Don’t expose it to the air, or the sunlight, otherwise it’s going to deteriorate.

But, wait. Is it the idea that we are protecting? Or our ego?

Since I was a kid, I loved writing. My essays were often praised by teachers. But I never sent anything to the local newspaper or any children’s magazine to get it published.

Because I was afraid of rejections. Because I was so used to be praised, be “the best” in a place where I was already the best. Because I knew in my heart, that there’s a chance I wouldn’t be “the best” to get picked.

And it’s the same today.

The internet saved my artistic life. I can write here, in a blog with almost no traffic, at a small corner of the sea of words and characters. I feel safe here. Safe to write, to express. But after a while, I’m tired of singing to the vast of emptiness, and nothing comes back.

I have to choose, between showing real people “I have something to say that’s worth hearing & I can write”, and protecting my ego from ridicule, rejection, and indifference.

And silently blogging might just be another way of protecting the precious idea, protecting my ego.

So where do I turn up the microphone?

Her timed work is timeless

I came across Alexa Meade’s work recently. Her works have the surprising effects and I’m sure I’ve already seen some of them on my social media feed somewhere.

Alexa Meade challenges our perception of art by turning the relation between life and painting to the opposite direction. Art usually means “coming from life”; life informing art. But she managed to show us there’s the possibility to something opposite, something new: art can come to life, literally.

Life imitating art.

Meanwhile, every piece of her work is not just three-dimensional, but four. There’s a time element that’s crucial in her work process. The painting is done on models who are there, on site. They will be there as an existence that is only there for a period of time. And that time is the main part of her artistic work. What remains afterwards – the photos, the memories of the viewer who were there, the making-of videos like this one – is, again, only the description of her work. Her work is timed in that way.

But her work is also timeless. In a society where everything, especially ourselves and experience can be commodified or materialised, Meade’s work challenges our perception of our own existence. Can we live in a painting that’s more beautiful like a dream than our own life?

Meade creates the “canvas” in the three-dimensional space, and puts her objects on that canvas and paints over them to make them fit into that seemingly two-dimensional space.

Alexa Meade’s work reminds me of the work of Johannes Stoetter.

Both artists use painting on human body to create illusions. Both artists wow their viewers by challenge their perception of “what they see = what is” to “what they see = what it can be”. Their works are memorable and timeless.

How we can try to challenge ourselves and our viewers with our work?

What we can we challenge to understand and appreciate?

What can we break to preserve?

Genre vs. Idiosyncrasy

Genre is like an index. You are put there so people can find you. We always need to think about how others can find us. How they can hear us, can see us.

When they do, it’s what only we have that keeps the right people around.

Genre is a labeled box.

Genre is a platform.

Genre is a stage.

Genre is index.

Genre is an opportunity given by the stability of an ecosystem.

But in the core, genre is the part of what you do that shares with a bunch of other people’s work. It’s the general theme that connects different paths.

Idiosyncrasy is the reason for people to stare, linger, and stay.

Idiosyncrasy is the texture, the smell, the waves on the surface of a still lake.

Idiosyncrasy can be a disruption, too, when it’s strong enough. When it’s so disruptive that others might follow your lead, so that they will need to make another genre for you.

But idiosyncrasy is also going to be the reason why you are remembered for being who you are.

I think the way I’m putting it makes everything daunting to me. My first reaction was like “I will never be able to ‘disrupt’ anything”, “oh gosh I don’t want to put that much pressure on myself!”

But the way to do it should be simple, right?

I’m learning to sound like myself. I’m learning to listen to how I sound like when I’m being myself. But the answer always appears where I’m not looking. Not to sound too “Asian mysterious”, but “sounding like yourself” is something that you can only find when you are not actively looking for.

So I’m just reading, and writing.

I’m figuring out what I like, what I don’t like. I’m writing by imitating the things I like, avoiding the things that turn me off, believing one day I will be able to say: “This is me. This is how I sound like. This is what makes me remarkable.”

My writing process (the basic one)

Mostly it feels like chaos of inspiration and gradually I’m picking out stuff from the mist of it all.

  1. Hunting idea(s). Ideas are like flies moving rapidly in the chaos that’s the composition of my experience and the source of inspiration. Seeing the ideas flying around is one thing, actually catching one so that I can do something about it is another. Ergo, capturing ideas is step one. I have to mention the ideas that are still flying around, refused to be caught, are not getting anywhere, either. They serve as temptation and distraction… “Maybe in the future” reassurance. Or “it will never be” frustration.
  2. Doing something with the idea. I usually start free writing at this point. With one topic in my mind, I write down everything that comes in mind. Usually listening to music tracks that might go well with my mood and the topic. Until this part, I’ve been shutting down my thoughts and letting my thoughtless mind go wild. Later in this free writing process, I will find an angle that fits the best both to the purpose of the article I’m writing, as well as to my own interest. This is also when the thoughts start to come in.
  3. Start writing the article with the found angle and research. This is the part where I will tone down the emotions let by my mind, and let the thinking and logic take over.
  4. Edit. Completely rational side of the brain’s work. I always have to hold myself back from expanding on certain parts because I “feel like to”. I should spend more time and have more patience for this part, for sure.
  5. Hit publish and hope it resonates. That’s my goal and then I get to move on.

This is a process which I use the most often. But it’s just part of what I usually do. Revisiting former ideas is another thing that has led to even better results. From re-writing there are new ideas appearing – could be new possibilities, but also could be more distracting flies hovering over my head.

Learn and build, play and break

I took piano lessons for a few years when I was a child.

I had always admired how pianists perform for others. I was very interested in playing the written music. But more specifically, the music pieces everyone can recognise. Another thing I found amazing was composing. Or even improvising on stage.

For the eight-year-old me, a piano playing girl who can not only play the famous notes, but also is able to telling stories with her own creativity, is perfection.

But my piano teacher disappointed me by saying that I would have to take one step at a time to get to where I wanted to go. He said I had to “learn the rules so well so that [I] can break them”.

“There are 88 keys on every full-sized piano. There are innumerable ways to make music from tapping on those keys. So many that you can’t even start. But you’ve got to start from somewhere! The lessons we have here is where you will start.

One step at a time. Build the basic blocks, the structure, the system; develop your taste; discover what you like and what you don’t like; maybe then you will be ready to break everything down. Maybe then you will be ready to create something from these 88 keys that is yours.

But today, your job is to practice the third piece from Czerny OP. 599. Let’s go.”

You can’t break and play unless you have done with learn and build.