How to buy art supplies.

It’s tempting to think that if we want to make art, we should, of course, begin by shopping. Full of zest, vim and vigor, we resolve to really get in the creative mode and, tail wagging, we prance off to the art supply store.

We browse through walls of pens, shelves of sketchbooks, and bins of brushes. We consider locked racks of spray paint, spools of armature wire, lino knives and airbrush frisket. We stare blankly at tubes of yellow watercolor that arbitrarily cost a buck or a Benjamin. And finally we stagger home, our credit cards limp with exhaustion, clutching bags of random gear, unsure of what to do with most of it.

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How to judge your work

When peacocks are hatched, they are ugly grey balls of fluff. When you snap a Polaroid, it is grey, then murky, washed out. When a baker puts a cake in the oven, it is runny, mealy, and inedible. A great burgundy goes into the bottle as grape juice. When a marathoner crosses the finish line, her body is depleted, her heart is erratic, her brain is mush. When you are clinging to the side of a mountain, your face pressed against the granite — you can’t see its shape against the sky, its majesty.

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How to feed your soul.

It was the end of yoga class and I lay on the floor in corpse pose. Suddenly a rich, deep voice in my head spoke to me out of the candlelit darkness. It spoke slowly and distinctly and said, “Your body is the dog of your mind.”

Huh?

I thought about this cryptic phrase for the rest of the day. I even Googled it. Slowly I came to an answer.

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How to find your biggest fan.

My boy Jack came home from LA for a visit recently. It was the first time he’s been home in almost a year — I say ‘home’ but New York isn’t his home anymore. He’s an Angeleno now with a home and dog and a lovely girlfriend.

In between carousing with his former high school pals, he spent time going through all the stuff he’d left behind in his old room: paintings, books, clothes, a few battered toys. It was the final pieces of a collection curated over almost a quarter of a century, now getting its final edit. Much of it went in the trash and the remaining few boxes I’ll ship to him via UPS.

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How to suck.

As a surprise, I signed up for ballroom dancing lessons with Jenny. I had rosy visions of twirling her around the floor while brilliantined men in dinner jackets played peppy tunes on from the bandstand.

Alas, after two or three sessions, it was obvious that I suck. While my wife is graceful and athletic as a prima ballerina, I clearly and congenitally have no innate sense of rhythm, no ability to remember steps, no actual understanding of music at all. Despite her brave smile, I finally acknowledged I’d have to buy Jenny steel-capped pumps or hang up my dancing shoes. 

What if you try doing something and find you’re not very good at it. What are the consequences?

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How to murder your darlings.

When I was still a young pup, I was asked to write a draft of an incredibly important newspaper ad. It was to explain to the American public the historic breakup of AT&T into eight different companies. This pivotal moment would end a century of monopoly and change American technology overnight. 

I  pounded away at my Selectric® for days, dog-eared thesaurus at my side, then dumped reams and reams of copy on my boss’s desk. He looked over his reading glasses at me, sighed and said, “I see you didn’t have time to write less,” then picked up a red grease pencil and started to slash at my masterpiece. When he handed it back, gutted and bloody, I was appalled. How could he cut this phrase, that similie, those seven paragraphs of blinding brilliance? 

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How to find your passion.


Let me ask you a personal question: do you have a passion problem?  I’m not asking about your hormonal levels but about your life’s passion.  Money, responsibilities, others’ opinions aside, what do you really want to do with your remaining days?

This can be a really hard question for a lot of people to answer. It was for me too. There I was, for decades, working in a respectable career that I was pretty good at and which paid the bills —  but I always a had a little itchy sense that I should be doing something else.  

I just didn’t know what.  

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