In a scene I find both challenging and encouraging, Irving Stone depicts Vincent Van Gogh conversing passionately with his brother, Theo concerning his personal creative development. Pacing the floor wildly, breaking glasses and trashing his own hard-earned work as he rants:
Vincent: “Must I give up? Am I through? It looks that way, doesn’t it?
Theo: “Vincent, you’re behaving like a child…”
Vincent: “But Theo, I’ve let you support me for six long years. And what do you get out of it? A hopeless failure on your hands.”
Theo: “Listen, old boy. When you wanted to draw the peasants, did you catch the entire trick in a week? Or did it take you five years?
Vincent: “Yes, but I was beginning then.”
Theo: “You’re just beginning with colour today! And it will proba- bly take you another five years.”
Vincent: “Is there no end to this, Theo? Must I go to school all my life? I’m thirty-three! When in God’s name do I reach maturity?”
Here is something true: Maturity is never about arrival. You never get anywhere and you never “arrive.” Yes, you can (and should) improve and grow, but not toward some “end,” as it were. There is no best version of you out in the cosmos somewhere wait- ing to be discovered or achieved. There is no glorified version of your artist-self out there who is fully realized and fully actualized.
There is only the next song, the new piece. Every follow-up album or body of work, every new melody or stroke or lyric is another beginning.
This is an excerpt from my book Title Pending, which will be released this Fall/Winter. Join the email list for more like this, news about the release and content no one else gets.
This is a great idea. My oldest daughter is turning 10 next week. I remember my dad when I was 10. He seemed so much more mature at that time than I am now. I strive for that level of maturity in my parenting, but maybe I shouldn’t be looking for a peak level where I can stand on the summit sayning, “Ha! I made it!”, but rather just try to keep getting better.
Not really about art, but parenting certainly takes practice!