Myth of the First Step

Many take as truth the idea of the first step being the hardest; actually beginning is the easy part. Beginnings are full of hopes, dreams and rosy views. We start with a vision of the end and a belief that nothing will be too difficult to overcome as we head towards our goal. The reality is projects often stop after the first step once the easy part is over. 

The difficult step is the second or third step where grunt work is required. Obstacles appear or the project becomes boring assembling the parts needed to make it work. We find it easier to be distracted by another “first step”, to ignore what remains to be done, and eventually forget the unfinished work.

Artists will slog through the grunt work towards the result envisioned; dilettantes will not. We apply the layers of paint needed, put in the time under a welding hood, or hours making pictures that should never been seen. It is hours of uncomfortable, and often unproductive work, much of which is thrown out because it is not quite right.  What artists know is the body and form of the idea being built is often tedious or difficult or both. For dilettantes, time and failures build up and it is less painful to stop and convince themselves the idea isn’t worth the effort.

I tell my students how as a sculptor I would, on occasion, spend months building a piece I thought worked as intended but when I wheeled it outside of the studio and lived with it for a few days, I would tear it down and start over. Completing the entire process is the only way to know if an idea or project works. 

Being an artist means surviving the strain beyond that first step. Staying the distance is how we can gain knowledge and skill. Take that first step. And the second and third. Create work that fails because without the discipline to fail, your work will never amount to much. Without those failures, the successes won’t happen. 

Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work” ~ Chuck Close

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