The Third Something

088 / This Is The Time To Be Slow

Some advice for artists who feel they should be more productive this year

A pencil sketch from Adam Westbrook’s newsletter

September always feels like a fresh start, doesn’t it?

The rhythm of fifteen years in school still modulates my internal clock: the spontaneity of an August holiday is followed by la rentrée — new stationary, a new diary and the promise of four full months pregnant with possibility.

In my head it’s a perfect time to make some medium-sized goals, maybe launch a new creative project…

…but not this year.

The instinct is still there, mind you. This week I have almost sat down to plan goals several times.

But in the tempest of April and May I realised the best I could hope for by the end of 2020 is simply to be clinging still to the rock and, although the waters have now calmed a little, I won’t wade too far.

The rhythms of capitalism modulate something in me also: the idea that I must be productive in order to be valuable.

I wonder if our obsession with tangible outcomes — and the goals that supposedly enable them — blind us to the quiet dignity of the process.

And I wonder: what if I lived the rest of my life like this? No five-year-plans, no annual goals, instead an openness to what comes my way and a faith that if I relinquish control, everything will still be OK.

Is that a path to contentment or ruin? Or both?

I don’t know, but I do think that if you’ve been feeling that you must somehow scrape something from this reckless year and the thought is leaving you anxious — remember: not everything has to interact with the market.

Instead: be present, notice the small things; surrender.

That’s been the unexpected gift of 2020 and there’s still four months of it left.

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, if you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

(John O’Donohue)

Until another Sunday soon,

Adam's signature