Another Parallel


“…I did not know that for a man who wants to continue with the creative life, to keep on growing and developing, this cheerful idea of happy establishment, of continuing now as one has started, is nothing but a delusion and a snare. I did not know that if a man really has in him the desire and the capacity to create, the power of further growth and further development, there can be no such thing as an easy road. I did not know that so far from having found out about writing, I had really found almost nothing … I made a first and simple utterance; but I did not know that each succeeding one would not only be … more difficult than the last, but would be completely different, that with each new effort would come new desperation, the new, and old, sense of having to begin from the beginning all over again; of being face to face again with the old naked facts of self and work; of realizing again that there is no help anywhere save the help and strength that one can find within himself.”

-Thomas Wolfe, speaking at Purdue, 1929

I realize that many of you do not feel this way, and in fact regard this statement as something of a bummer. Wolfe was 37 when he delivered this talk, entitled “Writing and Living.” He’s talking about dealing with the continual Now – not so different from Garry Winogrand, who would look through the viewfinder (yes, he did that) and, if he recognized the picture he was about to take, would stop himself (“Why take it?”) and would do something to change it (as opposed to the origins of creative activity described so well by Emmet Gowin in the same PBS Bill Moyers program). At some point we’ll look at this from the perspective of the career of Miles Davis, who summed it up thus (do your best hoarse whisper here): “Ev’rybody got to change.”


And now a media “blitz” (at least the jazz version of same) for Mr. Henry Threadgill includes this quote in an interview: “What I’m ultimately talking about is shedding systematic thinking,” he said. “You have to change. For me, it’s death otherwise. To stop seeking, to stop moving, is death.”


Where do your picture-making activities fall on this spectrum? How much do you find yourself making the same picture again and again, and in what way? If you do, how do you justify it to yourself?

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