Accountability Day 4: 3 Ways to Grow As An Artist

Today, I covered the rather saddening incident involving Chris Brown and Rihanna at the Grammy celebrations this weekend. The young and talented couple got in an argument which left Rihanna in the hospital, and Brown in jail for putting her there. They’ve both had to cancel shows, he’s rapidly lost sponsors and his songs have been barred from some radio stations.

Other than obvious fact that this is sad because domestic violence is sad, I think it’s sad to see two such gifted people reveal such underlying instability. So often, sucess comes before we’re ready for it. We’re performing well on the outside, but we’re kind of faking it. And at the moment of truth disaster strikes. (Think Britney shaving her head..)

Last night in Yoga, my teacher taught class based on the principle that in order to make our art to the full potential, we had to have a strong foundation. She described watching the film Man on A Wire, starring tight-rope walker Philippe Petit, who walked between the twin towers on a mere wire. He is most certainly a performance artist, but his art was dependent on a tremendously strong foundation. In other words, he’s got his feet firmly on the ground (or rope, as the case may be.) Once he’s properly grounded, he can really soar.

This related to yoga because if you are flexible enough, it is possible to look like you are soaring but actually have your legs be in a bad position. You hurt your lower back, and the art you make in the practice is really not as full as it has the potential to be. Showing off is fun for everyone, but growing as an artist means being conscious, or accountable, for the building blocks. Get stable, then fly. If you don’t, eventually, you will come crashing down. So, to blossom as artists, we actually need to root down first. In other words, when we’re accountable for our progress, we’re able to achieve more. But How?

3 Ways To Grow as An Artist

1) Stop showing off. Everyone who gets injured in yoga gets injured in a pose that they achieve by stretching the wrong muscle in order to look as good as other people in the class. If it looks but doesn’t feel good, it’s not good. This is the same for artists. You can do things that are very showy, but if you are exercising the wrong muscles, you won’t be able to sustain your growth.
2) Measure, don’t judge. This is very in keeping with the accountability theme. Essentially, think of yourself as a scientist whose job it is to study you. Have the kind of objectivity that enables you to collect really clear data. Yesterday in class, my teacher pointed out to me that one of my feet wasn’t straight. My first response was to feel frustrated and criticized, even disappointed in myself. I’ve been doing yoga for a while so I knew my feet were supposed to be straight. Thus I assumed I was doing it perfectly. But I suppressed that self-reproach and was able to straighten my foot and simply measure how the adjustment changed my poses. They did feel better, but my focus wasn’t on the final posture, it was on my foot, and the muscles connected to it. Thus, I was able to immerse myself in the act of learning, which brings us to point 3.
3) Value the learning as much as the doing. My teacher ended yoga class by explaining that even though foundation is what we want, we won’t really find it unless we place on high value on learning to nurture it. We’re always coming back to the basics, so we better enjoy honing them. Every time we reach up, we have to reach down, too. But if the things we learn when we reach down aren’t interesting to us, we’re likely to avoid the small stuff and shoot for the moon. This can seem ok for a while, until one day we overshoot and miss completely. {insert cheezy crash landing metaphor here.}


4 thoughts on “Accountability Day 4: 3 Ways to Grow As An Artist

  1. I’m glad you found my blog because I sure wouldn’t have wanted to miss yours! I absolutely gained from reading this post and I am going to enjoy the preceding accountability posts later on, after sleep. (your other commenter here, Aishah….I worked with a woman who named her daughter Aishah and I thought it was so beautiful.)

  2. I think E.G. means literary world in the loose, super mario bros definition of “world” although unfortunately we do technically share a planet with the people who read her books.


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