Friday, November 12, 2010

Art and Sacrifice

"The study of writing, like the study of classical piano, it not practical but aristocratic. If one is born rich, one can easily afford to be an artist; if not, one has to afford one's art by sacrifice." ~John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist

It's the end of another fast week and one wonders where the time goes. Two blinks ago it was Monday. As Job once lamented, "My days are faster than a weaver's shuttle," an image probably lost on many here in the modern/post-modern Western world.

The other day I contemplated how life might be different if we had thirty hours in a day instead of twenty-four. Would we sleep more? Or would we continue to burn the candle at both ends and still try to get by on four hours sleep?

It's a given that whatever the length of a day, we're all pretty much allotted the same. How we choose to allocate our time is pretty much up to us.

Gardner's quote indicates that accomplishment involves sacrifice. This does not mean all sacrifices are good ones. Peter Lynch, in his book One Up On Wall Street, stated with regret that the price he paid for his achievements managing the Magellan Fund were at the expense of his family. To his great regret, he missed out on several key years in his daughters' lives in their early teens and wishes he could re-do those time-allocation decisions.

Sacrificing television is one way to buy more time if you are a writer, artist or musician. Chopin was never distracted by Dancing with the Stars, and look what the child prodigy Mozart achieved by skipping Saturday morning cartoons. Asimov wrote over 300 books. My guess is that he never did a lot of golfing.

In his book The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker emphasizes in an early chapter that time is a unique resource. "The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up.... Time, therefore, is always in exceedingly short supply."

Napoleon placed a high value on time. "I may lose a battle but I shall never lose a minute," he once exclaimed. He said that for a general, strategy is how we make use of time and space, however, "space we can recover, time never."

Few of us do "nothing" with our time. Even if it is only people watching with friends, that's something. But if we are to become writers, artists, musicians, or bloggers, decisions need to be made. To add something new into our daily regimen means pushing something else out onto the back porch.

Ultimately, we each decide what is important to us. Too often we're over-concerned about the approval of family and peers. What's really important to your heart? What are you really all about? Don't sacrifice that.

Henry Ward Beecher wrote, "In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich." Just so we don't give up our souls.

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