Title: "Spectral Delusions"
(click image to view larger)
A friend and I were discussing some aspects of Julia Cameron's book "The Artist's Way". Among other things, Cameron insists that one write three pages every day. My first reaction was that this was rather prescriptive and overbearing, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I was reminding myself of the Malcom Gladwell book "Outliers", in which he proposes that those who are the elite in their chosen field of endeavour had over the years practiced a particular skill or skill set for 10,000 hours. Although this seems like an arbitrary number, I think the point is made that a deep abiding passion for something leads to a strong commitment that in turn leads to a very significant investment of time acquiring, practicing and honing skills.
This idea is something I know from personal experience, but often forget. I took up horseback riding later in life, mainly as an activity to do with my lovely wife, because truth be told, I had no natural talent for the sport. But none the less, I fell in love with riding and ended up working very consistently and hard on becoming a better rider. And I did manage to acquire a pretty solid skill set in spite of the lack of natural talent. When I was a graduate student, my supervisor always had me write the first draft of our papers after which we would sit down and go through the draft deciding on where it needed work. That time spent constantly writing and rewriting provided me with the skills to sit down and write out my entire Ph.D. thesis long hand in a first and final draft over a three week period. When I tell current graduate students who typically take 6-12 months to write their thesis, they shake their heads in disbelief. Yet I struggle now to write papers and grants because I go long spells without practicing the craft. The days of writing up a daily lab journal, and putting together notes for lectures have been superseded by powerpoint presentations and I lack the necessary practice to keep the writing skill well oiled and immediately available.
Reflecting on these ideas and experiences makes me realize that my "daily practice" is not something to do for a year, it's something to keep doing beyond that artificial limitation. I have already gained considerable improvements in seeing, and making images and in thinking about what is driving the process.