Trying not to try too hard

It's a lovely ride-sketchbook

James Taylor’s Zen-like lyrics to “Secret O’ Life” wound up in my head one evening while my sketch pad was at arm’s length. The result is what’s above…which was easier said than drawn, which is sort of the point of the song.

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride.

The secret of love is in opening up your heart.
It’s okay to feel afraid, but don’t let that stand in your way.
Cause anyone knows that love is the only road.
And since we’re only here for a while, might as well show some style. Give us a smile.

Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.

Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view, how does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never understand it all.
Planets spinning through space, the smile upon your face, welcome to the human race.

Some kind of lovely ride. I’ll be sliding down, I’ll be gliding down.
Try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.
Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”

Love that. So inspiring. So simple. So utterly impossible to live out sometimes.

I’m such an admirer of artists who keep lavishly and spontaneously executed journals, or anyone for that matter, who can just sit down with a sketch book and let it all flow onto the page without regard for how perfect “it” is. For me that requires not only industrial grade duct tape over the pie-hole of my inner critic but an occasional “f*** the hell off”…cuz damn…

So while the page of scribble above doesn’t seem like much more than a bunch of doodles-while-talking-on-the-phone type stuff, for me, it’s a major accomplishment. It’s enjoing the ride, it’s trying not to try too hard, all that zen stuff and much more. That’s why I bother to show it off. Because there aren’t many pages in my sketchbooks like it and I’d like there to be more where it came from.

It’s why some songs, poems, and quotes about creativity and finding the “zone” and “trying not to try too hard”, etc., get right to the core/essence and often end up “transinterprelated” into some of the work on this web site. How to free up the that 9 year-old attitude of play required to fill up a page of doodles at the drop of a hat is a never ending, two-three-four-way (or more) discussion going on in my head 24/7.

I wish my process was a seamless, flowy kind of all-inclusive vacation cruise but it almost never is. Rather, words like “win”, “lose”, “courage”, “battle”, “warrior” come to mind. It’s gets bloody. There is collateral damage but the worst of all, nothing happens. Silence. The “peace at any price” doctrine prevails. Analysis gives way to paralysis. Resistance wins. Everyone stays comfortably numb. No doodles, just a pile of gum eraser debris at my feet and very little of consequence on the page. Not even mistakes. And I know…I know…the mistakes are critical.

My drafting table, sketchbooks and computer screen are therefore my battlefields. I try to show up every morning in full battle armor, ready to engage the enemy who is usually waiting for me..kicked back in my office chair…feet up on my keyboard. The enemy is a shape-shifting son-of-a-bitch. Sometimes a “Dragon”, a “Critic”, a “Coward”, it has many avatars.

Two books by Steven Pressfield “The War of Art” and “Do the Work” have helped when swift kicks to the hind-quarters are required. And sometimes more kid-glove nudges are enough, like JT’s song lyrics, but it’s always a matter of getting out of my own way to one degree or another…whether I’m just being a whiny diva, or a having a full-fledged meltdown and need to be knocked down a peg or two. Both are symptoms of self-interference.

To quote Pressfield in “Do the Work”

“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify, seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.”

I’m pretty sure it really is all about not trying too hard…that the ride is indeed lovely…and the secret o’ life really is enjoying the passage of time. But sometimes it all comes down to the courage it takes to fill up a page with scribbles and then lift it up and say…”look what I did.” So not to gloat, but if you wouldn’t mind scrolling back up the page…”look what I did.”

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