In The Artist’s Journey, Steve includes a section related to the artist’s skills. Here are a few:
The artist learns how to start.
The artist learns how to keep going.
The artist learns how to finish.
The artist learns how to hang on.
The artist learns how to let go.
The artist learns how to be alone.
The artist learns how to work with others.
The artist learns how to handle rejection.
The artist learns how to handle praise.
The artist learns how to handle panic.
The artist learns to give up.
The artist learns to go beyond what she knows.
The artist learns to be brave.
The artist learns to keep the pressure on.
Often, my daily goals resemble Steve’s skills:
Work with others.
Go beyond what I know.
Keep the pressure on.
When my daily goals look like Steve’s skills, I know I’m stuck in my hero’s journey, which feels like the zero’s journey.
Do you know the following quote from Kurt Vonnegut?
Do you realize that all great literature—Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, A Farewell to Arms, The Scarlet Letter, The Red Badge of Courage, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Crime and Punishment, the Bible, and “The Charge of the Light Brigade”—are all about what a bummer it is to be a human being?”
That bummer, buzz kill, wet blanket extinguisher of all hope is what the loser’s journey feels like—just muddling through the crap, no Emerald City in sight, flying monkeys all over the place.
Start is easy.
Keep going is tough.
Finish is near impossible some days.
Hang on makes me want to scream—as does let go.
Be alone is never a problem.
Work with others is sometimes a problem.
Handle rejection is always a problem.
Handle praise can lead to problems.
Give up happens a lot.
Go beyond what I know . . . How do I know what I don’t know?
Be brave is a coin toss between being strong and breaking.
But on the days when I can nail all of them?
Artist all the way.
The difference between zero, hero, and artist is 1) having the experience to nail the artist’s skills—and knowing that we’re working on multiple tracks, so while we’re an artist on one, we might be a zero hero on the other (think John McClane: hero as a pro and zero with family)—and then 2) having enough sleep, exercise, and good food to ward off the toxic personalities that suck out the life when caffeine, sugar, and lack of sleep and exercise dominate.
I know artists who drink and/or do drugs—and artists who work on little sleep and lots of drama. Not me. I can’t do it.
When the structure fails, so do the skills.