“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
– Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
In this Picasso quotation, we are given a gift of immeasurable value. It is a master key to creating, not only in the arts; it is equally applicable to any field of endeavor. Why? By analyzing the quotation’s component parts, we may find that in spite of the paradoxical sound of it, there is much to help us manifest more of our unique visions in the world.
He starts with this: “I am always doing…” It reminds me of the title and contents of Robert Ringer’s latest book, ‘Action – Nothing Happens Until Something Moves’, a well-written and powerfully insightful book on success principles. Ringer says that any action, but most especially, massive action, is the surest way to be successful in one’s pursuits.
Picasso, like Ringer, states that ‘doing’, or ‘action’, constitutes the surest way to success. Picasso produced incredible quantities of art, including drawings, paintings and sculpture. The Guinness Book of World Records declared Picasso to be the most prolific painter who ever lived.
Creating a good many imperfect projects, prototypes or working models of a more long-term or ultimate vision is the way to create by creating. In actually, there really is no other way. No matter how much you think about creating something, rolling it over and over in your mind, even perfecting the mental vision of it, it will not become real until you actually take some action and begin building it in the material world. Even a crude physical representation of your vision gives you much more to work with than an elegant version that stays locked inside of your mind.
There is an added benefit of producing preliminary versions of things. Some of them may have ‘stand alone’ merit and value even though they are primarily done to find one’s way to completion of a larger project. It is usual for artists to make a good many sketches to discover to help them find the ultimate version of their vision. Wouldn’t you love to own some of the preliminary versions of a famous work of art, in the form of the artist’s sketches? There may well be a corollary of this in your work.
Now for the second part of Picasso’s quotation: “I am always doing that which I cannot do…” One of the major aspects of creating that keeps you inspired and interested is challenge. The challenge of doing that which you cannot do. And doing it anyway. Most would not even attempt to do what they cannot do. But how else could we discover new ways, gain fresh insight or make the unknown known?
What can and usually does stop us in our tracks at this point is bringing judgment into the process. Doing so cuts off action and creative output. When writing, it is best to go to completion on the piece without trying to correct as you go, and afterward go back over it in editor mode. Making these two runs, with different intents, works best. Otherwise it is quite likely that your critical mind will overwhelm your creative mind, thereby shutting down the whole process. Most other kinds of creation have analogous processes to writing. What version of first writing and then editing might you employ?
When you do what you cannot do, it doesn’t just bring you to the edge… your edge of understanding. It puts you over the edge. For me, hanging out somewhere over the edge is where the most interesting action resides. For here, we don’t know exactly what we will find. It is a place where something new and magical may await us.
There is no guarantee that whatever we engage in is going to be worth it or not. It is an exciting place, with the rush of living in one’s own action/adventure movie, but without the assurance that at the end of two hours it will all work out.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” With massive action, especially so while working in that ‘over the edge’ realm, one learns what works and what doesn’t more quickly. As Picasso says, one learns how to do it by doing it in the face of not knowing how to do it. And doing it anyway. This principle, as paradoxical as it reads, truly is a truth to embrace if you too wish to accomplish much in your lifetime.
– Richard J. Chandler
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