Thursday, 29 April 2010

You're so slow, speed up, work faster!

I've always been a bit of a slow coach. I can remember my Mum commenting on it when she would walk me the mile to school and back when I about five years old. It wasn't that I didn't want to go, it's just that I travelled at my own speed, and fifty-odd years later I still do.

This proved to be a bit of a problem when I was doing exams as a 16 year old. I was never very confident at maths and I knew, during one exam, when I kept rechecking my answers, that if I'd only had another 15 minutes I could have got a higher grade. Still never mind, has always been my mantra.

These days I notice I walk slower than other people - no change there but I notice it more and more. They overtake me on the inside and power down the road. Me, I saunter along and enjoy watching the world go by and get there in the end - occasionally I'll speed up when I'm late for the bus but usually I'm content to wait for the next one. I also eat slower and drink slower than other people. A cup of tea can last all morning at work but that's often because I've forgotten it's there.

And not surprisingly I make art quite slowly - in fact dead slowly. Having worked for 30 years in publishing to strict deadlines I actually learned to speed up. It was a case of speed up or speed out but it took me years to learn the art of simultaneously thinking and doing. The endless 'have you done this?', 'have you done that?', 'it's needed now' used to make me anxious but not more productive. Finally I got the hang of it and when I was working in newspapers I became a bit hooked on flinging pages together, running on adrenalin all day and irritated by people who took their time.

But now I can see a real advantage to working slowly because creative endeavours can often take a very long time to come to fruition. For example this very day I have solved how to approach a portrait I have been struggling with for more time than I care to mention. I've already thrown one version of it on the scrap heap and I'm confident that the new approach I've settled on will result in a more satisfying solution. And let's face it: no-one else has a vested interest in whether I produce artwork or not so I might as well take my time and produce work I can be proud of even if it does take years.


jacqui said...

You sound so much like me as a youngster. My headmaster at primary school told my Mum not to worry about me, there was nothing wrong with me other than being a bit of plodder. She will get there in her own time. And so it has been.
However, it is still frustrating to see it happen in your own kids. My eldest has always been fast paced, academically and physically my other 2, oh, they will get there eventually lol,

Anonymous said...

Got here from Marta Szabo's website. Glad I did. I really want and need to make art again. Somehow I received permission here to go at it, at whatever pace I go. Thx.

Heather said...

Dear Anon,

I'm so pleased to have been of help. Enjoy making your art however long it takes. ;)

MartaSzabo said...

What a great piece, Heather! I want to share it with alot of writers -- who write for a few weeks and then ask me about publishing. I said to Fred once a few years ago, "The more I write the less I care about publishing." So I understand the initial caring, but the knee-jerk reaction to seek publication or approval from others wanes...!