4. Work hard. Then work harder.  


"Now I think the other thing we need to recognize is Picasso's tremendous ambition. And it was coupled with what his biographer, John Richardson, calls 'a reasonably gifted person.' A person who had a phenomenally visual memory and could then ransack art history, drawing from all sources, especially Spanish sources, and turn that through hard, hard work into his own style."


I don't want to advise (even if I could) about how many hours a week you should work. Alex and I work around 70-80 hours a week, every week and would doubtless be diagnosed as workaholic by most. However, our work situation is unusual: we work mostly from home, so anytime we feel like stopping to watch the news, make some food, even have a bath or fifteen minutes on the treadmill (yes, we have one - I think it's probably an essential if you work at home) then we can do it. The flexibility and relaxation of the set-up stops it from being as stressful as those hours would otherwise be.

But what my point four is about isn't so much the hours you put in each week, as the persistence and stamina you show over time. Time matters. Some things just don't happen fast, or mature fast or come rapidly to fruition (fruition is a good metaphor here). I talked about beginning small and often not as good as you'd like - because that's just how it is when you start something new. And if you look at that small achievement and feel so disheartened that you stop there, then that's where things will end - more or less where they began.

W.B. Yeats (who produced some of his best work towards the end of his long life - his command over what he did and his willingness to take risks grew over years) wrote:
Poet and sculptor, do the work

Your work is nothing if it stays in your head or remains only part of your plans or hopes. You have to DO it, get it out there, accept its limitations and then develop it further. Keep going because steadily (well, fairly steadily, there will be ups and downs) it will get better - and more true to you. Put in the time and effort and keep going even at the times when you don't really want to. Making a living from your creativity demands a hard, determined attitude - be hard, work hard.

See your work as a work-in-progress. Don't look at each individual piece so much as the progression and the sum total. Let each new project build on the one before and feel good about even small improvements. At least once every three or four years stop and look at what you were doing at the beginning of that time period and compare it with what you're doing now. You'll be surprised.

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