Tuesday, 30 December 2014

ten thousand hours

Whilst enjoying a velvety coffee in my favourite cafe one winter afternoon, I chance to  overhear a fellow customer declare that excellence in a discipline is achieved only after ten thousand hours of dedicated practise.

The cafe is warm, softly lit, the murmer of conversation is comforting. Yellow light spills from the window onto the darkening world beyond the glass; it is the hour of dusk. I stir my coffee and ponder upon the magical equation proposed by my neighbour.

During the last week of November, I made seven, small, delicate studies of cloud formations, before losing confidence and coming once more to a tremulous standstill. Several hours were committed to each little study, nowhere near the number required for excellence, but my efforts marked something of a return to my practice, nevertheless.

A month later, no further drawings having been made, I retrieve the fragile pieces from the drawer in which I had hidden them from my censorious gaze, and lay them out on the floor of the back bedroom, in order to reappraise them. I am much relieved that I resisted the urge to destroy them; by so doing, I would have denied myself the opportunity of learning from them, vital steps marking my passage through the 'forest dark' would have been lost forever, and I would have again been floundering without the guiding light of their presence. As it is, each carefully dated study bears witness to my attempt to celebrate and understand the wondrous mutability of the clouds, each represents the sum of hours of work, carried out with a will to improvement.

I have still many more hours of such work ahead of me. At times my appetite for the task is fickle; weeks pass in which no drawings are produced, and I am again plunged headlong into the misery of doubt and self condemnation. However, thankfully, these painful intervals are  becoming shorter as my resolve strengthens, and sometimes I  experience the tiniest flicker of pleasure in my modest achievement, from which I gain a modicum of courage to continue. There are even days when I begin to believe that I tread the 'straight foreward path', the way forth from the darkness. I may yet come to behold the stars.

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