The phrase “one day at a time” has permeated our culture through the influence of Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is not a new concept. There is, for example, the old Chinese aphorism that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Health advisors assure us that a daily walk around the block, if done every day, can prolong our lives.
And yet one still hears of occasional writers who hold back for the flush of inspiration before sitting down to work, however long the wait. Now, I’m not trying to hate on anyone. Some artists of intermittent burst produce great stuff. But, for myself, I am a devotee of the daily grind.
This came to mind recently when I attended a reading by Lorna Dee Cervantes, a wonderful and well-anthologized San Francisco poet of international repute. Much to my surprise, she spoke of her participation in National Poetry Writing Month each April—one of those breathless do-it-yourself projects that are often cringe-inducing for those of us with a cynical bent. (Artists with a cynical bent? It happens. Get around that bend and move on down the road.) I wondered, if the great Lorna Dee Cervantes can engage in this stuff without embarrassment, why not I?
I became The Storming Bohemian when I made a commitment one summer to attend (and blog about) 90 cultural events (mostly literary) in 90 days. Did it pay off? The New York Times thought so.
Mission artist Anthony Papini successfully committed an entire year to creating a painting a day, while still holding down a full time day job.
For thousands of years, monastic orders in multiple religions, East and West, have built their lives around repetitive daily practice.
I submit to you that all these good folk are onto something. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” (That last is not a recommendation to indulge in the practice of a daily spliff for the purposes of artistic inspiration, but should you desire to try it, you wouldn’t be the first.)
Here is one of my favorite quotes on practice, from the great Martha Graham: “Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
I love that because it reminds me of something important: my daily practice of art is an act of vision. It matters, in and of itself. It makes me an artist, regardless of what I create. The act, not just the artifact, is a matter of some substance and significance. But only if I make the commitment.
Here are some useful links that might help motivate some daily practice:
There are many more to be found in a googling session. Happy hunting! And, please, feel free to add your own suggestions for daily practice in the comments.
– Charles Kruger
The Storming Bohemian