Writerly Wednesday: Andy Goldsworthy is more patient than your mum.

A Lesson in Perseverance

No one could say that Andy Goldsworthy is not a patient man.

Look at that wild hair and rugged beard. He’s like an indie Father Time (Photo courtesy of Julian Calder, sourced from Smithsonian.com).

Imagine how many attempts he made at the above sculpture. Imagine how many times it cracked, crumbled and fell over before he wiggled all those pieces of slate into precisely the right position for the structure to hold together.

Pinned with leaves. Now he’s just showing off (Le jardin Massey, 1989. Photo courtesy of http://www.ucblueash.edu).

Now I don’t know about you but I have the creative patience of your average sparrow. If it’s too difficult, too laborious or too painful – there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll get distracted by something shiny or walk off in a huff. I know many of you are the same (don’t lie to me, my fragile artist ego can’t take it).

You sit there and somewhere between “Once upon…” and page six you get up and ‘take a break’ or suddenly get the soul crushing desperation for a beverage even though you’ve consumed enough coffee to kill you, your house mate, and your sleeping cat.

Maybe you suddenly realise that your window sills are dusty or remember that there are cookies in the cupboard. Or perhaps, it’s suddenly too cold write such nonsense at 3pm on a Saturday, and maybe you should experience some of this fantastic ‘outside’ that everyone’s so mad about.

What ever your troubles, spare a thought for ol’ Goldsworthy, who routinely pins together leaves with freakin’ thorns or spends hours sorting hundreds of pebbles into different shades so that he can arrange them into this:

If you long enough into the abyss eventually the abyss looks into you – and thinks you’re a creeper (Image courtesy of Miqel.com).

So what’s the point? As writers we can learn a lot from sculptors like Andy Goldsworthy. Whether it’s a new appreciation of texture, pattern, or perhaps a renewed focus on perseverance, every writer can take something from Goldsworthy’s work.

For example, Goldsworthy likes to let nature dictate his medium, autumn yields leaves, winter yields snow and so on. As a result his work reflects the mood of the particular place in which he works. His art has a cyclic feel to it, every object seems to inform the environment and vice versa, giving the impression that his pieces grew out of nature themselves.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what writer’s aspire to do? Write something so artful that it looks and feels organic?

There’s also a lesson in freedom there, or rather, the ability to let go and let the piece just be what it is. I’m not dissolving into existentialism here. What I mean is giving in to the process. Letting the art use you to create itself. The project you begin may not look anything like the finished product. Part of writing is exploring the options open to you, surrendering the pen to what works and not what you would like to work.

The other part is trying to convince yourself that the idea has weight to start with, and that you really should persevere with it instead spending your time on a blog lecturing other people on perseverance.

Stop Press: Pulitzer Prize winning composer Steven Stucky takes inspiration from Andy Goldsworthy work. Click here to peruse.


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