My own work for the next few days is to prepare for the publication and release of "Persist," and that will be the focus of my writing. First up is an essay I have promised for the January issue of ArtScene magazine--a monthly publication in which a number of the essays in "Persist" have appeared over the years, and which welcomes thoughts on a wide variety of topics relevant to its readership of visual artists. Obviously, it's not kosher to tout my own book--though I will place an ad in the same issue. But I can and will be writing on a related topic: the repercussions of the current recession on the art scene. My first sentence, already formulated, is this: "It's a great time to be an artist!" The temptation is to get whiny about the financial hardship of an artist's life, and I do hear a lot of whining. What I want to say instead is that the further constriction of financial opportunity offers a kind of liberation. Where there's less than little hope of "making it," I'm released to do whatever the hell I please.
But the key is the determination to "persist." And persistence, as I see it, is just a nicer way of thinking about discipline; and discipline is something that is not very much taught in schools, from kindergarten on. Our educational philosophy leans more to the notion of creativity, and while creativity has its place--and was perhaps stifled in earlier times, when rote learning was the norm--it's not much use to anyone without the discipline to back it up. It took me many years to come to a useful understanding of discipline. Having experienced it as applied from without--in the form of rules and expectations of parents and teachers--I was too advanced in years before I discovered that it comes, most effectively, from within. What I'm doing at this very moment is a part of my discipline as a writer: showing up, and getting the words down. It would be very easy not to. My path to this discipline was paved by another: the meditation practice.
So it's these ideas that I explore in the essays in "Persist," and will be exploring in a different context in my ArtScene essay. From there, and with these same ideas in mind, I'll be starting to prepare for the the more terrifying prospect of speaking engagements. I say terrifying advisedly: no matter how many years I spent in the classroom, teaching, it's a huge challenge for me to stand up in front of a bunch of people and pretend that I know something they don't know. I never liked to "lecture," and in fact never did, throughout my teaching career. I tried to turn even large classes into something more like Socratic dialogue--not always with success. Lecturing has its place, but it's not something I was cut out to do. Now that I have a number of speaking gigs lined up for the beginning of next year, I must discover a way to speak to an audience with ease and fluency, in a sense to "entertain" them with my ideas, and I'm thinking in terms of a Socratic dialogue with myself.
I notice, in the context of the previous entry in The Buddha Diaries, that I have already made another plan, for God's amusement. But these are things I need to work on, obviously. This morning has been useful to me in finding a focus for the work that needs to be done. Thanks for listening.