One of my best teachers gave us a good daily practice. This came out of a discussion about the idea of when one is truly ‘finished’ with something – in this case a painting – but it could be a poem, a novel, practise or rehearsal of a piece, a song, a cleaning project, a research project … any task, actually, to which you’ve committed yourself. She said,
“if you are not sure whether you’re done, go find a mirror. Look at yourself – right at yourself, and maintain eye contact. Then ask, out loud – Am I done? You’ll know, beyond a doubt, what the answer is.”
It works. You actually can’t lie. (test it – try lying, and holding your own gaze. it’s impossible.)
It works both ways, of course. Sometimes you get the answer: “O, for heaven’s sake STOP Already!”. That’s when you know you’ve become obsessive – you’re spinning your wheels and getting nowhere (potential major ERROR a-coming in the task at hand). Often when you feel this (if you’ve had enough sleep, if you have enough objectivity, if you’re not ENTIRELY identified with what you’re doing) an alternative direction will enter your mind – something five-year-old playful; as silly as it can be. Hopefully you answer that call, and loosen/lighten up.
Possibly this is why people who work in the arts appear to be ‘play-ful’ — why it seems (to some people who work from 9-7 at very difficult and stress-filled jobs) that musicians and artists are having a better time than they. This may result in the phone call out of the blue from an employee of the London 2012 Olympic Committee who suggests that it would be good for your band to play for free, since you’re really just enjoying yourself afterall, and people (who have bigger budgets) might see you have fun and maybe hire you for something.
Oh dear. Is this a rant?
[I check my mirror. YES. Yes, you Complain. This helps no one. Fix it.]
Oh but it was GREAT to hear Michael D Higgins (former Galway Mayor, ninth and current President of Ireland, go toe-to-toe with the American tea party guy last night (I’ve blocked out said US guy’s name – he was so awful). Also and as well – I so LOVE that moment (just before sleep) when I find the exact, precise words (the ones God would use) to take down a small-minded, belligerent fool who spouts damaging, empty froth out into the world to support his fragile bully-ego, and deliver them (baseball bat-style) with thundering Thor-like gusto, thus decimating him and all his progeny. I adore Comic Book Movies….but
… my own eyes in the mirror say: Don’t.
And this is what saves me from being an axe murderer.
Check the mirror. We all fight with ourselves, and project it onto other unsuspecting innocents.
You’ll know what to do.