Chasing the Muse

…or running from her, as the case may be. Mine has taken tight hold of this new toy, video making, and isn’t about to let me pry her little fingers off it. Even when I think about illustrating a story, she says, “Isn’t there some way you could make the picture – you know – move? Just a bit?” She pokes me awake at three in the afternoon with new ideas and stands over my shoulder while I try to make my untutored hands do what her busy little brain wants.

There’s a certain level of frustration in learning a new skill. I’m used to being quick at what I do, practiced and competent. I’m not used to getting fifteen minutes of work done on something – or a couple of hours – and then figuring out that I needed to do something else first. I’ve done a lot of scrapping of work, a lot of re-doing. I’ve gritted my teeth and poked along as I learn the ins and outs of the video programme I’m using. I don’t cry. I don’t swear – okay, I might swear a little – and I don’t do that hand-wringing thing that makes David say “stop doing that, please!”

What I have learned to do is to say, at the point when I can feel that tightness in the chest or shoulders, “Done now”, and shut down what I’m doing. I go and do something else that I’m good at. I pick up the new skill when I am calm and ready to tackle it again. I also have learned that unrealistic deadlines are nothing but trouble, and that I need to cut myself some slack and give myself some time. I’m not very good at that. (I hear the rattle of my friends’ eyes rolling in their sockets!)

David also pointed out that all the animation I’m looking at is professional, and probably done by teams. What I need to look at is beginners’ animation. I don’t know why I had to have David point this out to me. Every single time I’ve ever taught art, whether it was pottery, poetry or manuscript illumination, I have counselled my students not to compare their work to mine. I’ve had years of practice before feeling competent enough to teach. They aren’t seeing my beginner’s pieces. They’re comparing their very first try with something I’ve worked at and refined.

I know that one of the ways to combat losing your marbles is to keep learning new things. The unexercised brain, like the unexercised bod, gets a bit flabby. I’d like to keep my brain sharp, and that means I need a challenge. Challenge is almost certainly bound to be a source of some frustration. You hit a wall and figure out how to get around it or over it, or just blow it down. But first you have to hit the wall.

So here I am, hitting the wall. The video I’m working on now I had hoped to have done and up for yesterday, the anniversary of the Periodic Table of the Elements. Din’t happen. That’s okay – it was never going to, because even with the drawings done, scanned and cleaned up, there’s a load of stuff still to do, like coordinating two animation tracks to run in sync. Can we say “learning curve”?

As always, however, art is absorbing, rewarding, and full of moments of delight and surprise. Just taking longer than expected.

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One Response to Chasing the Muse

  1. angileengallop says:

    Hey Elizabeth: I think this applies to writing fiction for me. Even though I’ve been chipping away at it for years. Great advice to walk away and try again later…

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