Only gradually do you come to appreciate that the occupation you aspire to is harder than you thought, that the supply of other young, self-anointed apples of their own eyes is inexhaustible, and that you’re not as uniquely gifted as you’d thought,” she says. Far better to spend ten years “fetching lattes” than fall victim to a big break: “It’s surely a fine emotional art – dousing your hollow hauteur without quenching the fire in your belly altogether – but the kids who master it come out the other side both shit-hot at their professions and bearable as human beings”
From Christine Smallwood’s great profile of Lionel Shriver in this week’s (July 22nd 2013) New Yorker.
1. Decide you must.
2. Develop deep respect
for feather, bone, claw.
3. Place your trembling thumb
where the heart will be:
for one hundred hours watch
so you will know
where to put the first feather.
4. Stay awake forever.
When the bird takes shape
gently pry open its beak
and whisper into it: mouse.
5. Let it go.
(I have a deep and unfair suspicion of poets I’ve never heard of, but this poem by Kathleen Lynch bucks that.)
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
“There are two dozen platforms … from each of which several different bus lines depart. Thereafter, for a kilometre or more, all the lines leaving from any one platform take the same route out of the city, making identical stops.
“Each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer,” Minkkinen says. You pick a career direction – maybe you focus on making platinum prints of nudes – and set off. Three stops later, you’ve got a nascent body of work. “You take those three years of work on the nude to [a gallery], and the curator asks if you are familiar with the nudes of Irving Penn.” Penn’s bus, it turns out, was on the same route. Annoyed to have been following someone else’s path, “you hop off the bus, grab a cab… and head straight back to the bus station, looking for another platform”. Three years later, something similar happens. “This goes on all your creative life: always showing new work, always being compared to others.”
What’s the answer? “It’s simple. Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.”
Oliver Burkeman explains the ‘Helsinki Bus Station Theory’, The Guardian