There’s an anecdote that hundreds of years ago an artist was given a large slab of marble to use for a sculpture and deemed it worthless because of a crack through it. Michelangelo found the same slab and, within the constraints of the slab’s condition, carved out David.
I was going to wax poetic about how any art piece is as much defined by its limitations as what’s within its “frame,” but I think the most important thing to me based on the past couple months is the feeling and motivation to envision the art as a goal within a medium, and to confront and pursue artistic or personal goal by understanding those constraints.
For the first time in a while, the novel I’m working on isn’t being written for anyone else: The Book of Resurrection is the first real, personal writing I’ve done in a couple years. As with any story, it has its constraints: it is limited to prose on the page, it needs to follow a narrative arc, and most of all: its story is contained within a finite (though fantastical) world that is governed by its own set of laws and properties.
Within this slab of marble, imperfect as it is, there is a story I’m unearthing that is very personal to me. A story of fighting for and often against a world that doesn’t seem to care about or want you back. It’s about finding the strength to fight on, to teach, and to encourage others; but also to find the strength to heal yourself. It’s been a journey, and it’s still getting put onto the page. I’m still chiseling at that slab of marble to uncover it, and I’m using my own fears and my own struggles as the tools to get there.
This applies to more than just art- it’s a ready lesson for fitness, careers, even relationships. We’re all limited by time, resources, and energy (physical and emotional). Whatever our goals are, part of them have to be a sympathetic understanding of what or who you’re working with, as well as an honest assessment of the tools with which you can approach them.
We all aspire to finding that great art, that true beauty and love in the work and people we encounter- or I hope we do. This is all to say that there’s a lot more to it than just hacking away, there’s more than just the grind. There needs to be a vision and goal, there needs to be empathy of understanding the medium, and there needs to be courage to know what you bring to it to unearth that beauty as an artist and human being.