I have a rule that I tend to follow a lot better than any other self-imposed restriction I place on my life. Its stuck just a little bit behind “brush your teeth every day, you mongrel” and is thankfully ignored far less than “no pints on weeknights”. It’s a simple rule, and one that may seem painstakingly obvious to anyone with a creative drive, but it works for me in so much as I truly believe that it helps to keep me engaged and aware (although it does nothing to further my quest for immortality) and it is this: Consume one piece of art every day.
Now I know what you’re thinking, and so far there has been only one instance when I have been dragged from a museum, wielding a knife and fork, and begging for my condiments to be returned to me. But I adapted, I said to myself, “Gavin, rather than literally ingesting the art – No, hear me out. Why don’t we try this in a more metaphorical sense?”
When I was finally released from the overnight lock-up, I walked to the nearest cinema and instead of running for the projection booth and feeding the roll of film up one of my nostrils, I bought a ticket and watched the film.
I try to do something like this every day. I watch a film, I read a short story or part of a novel, I visit a museum and look through the galleries (now avoiding one particular establishment not too far from my house, the bastards). Every day I feel more accomplished. Every day that I take something in, whether I like or not it, I can feel it change me. I feel my opinion of it form and this shapes another (albeit miniscule) part of my personality. It helps me to grow bit by bit.
When I talk about consuming art, I‘m not talking about the latest Summer Blockbuster or marathoning a season of your favourite TV show. Although I wouldn’t necessarily discount these. I mean something that challenges you, something that makes you question yourself or the world around you. By art I mean something that has been created out of passion. An honest expression, an insight into the mind of another person. Its too easy, for me anyway, to forget that something else exists outside the trawl of normal life. Something inspiring and awesome and just a tiny bit magical. Consuming art helps to curb my overwhelming desire to procrastinate meaninglessly, and it makes me want to create something myself.
I do this because, if I don’t, I find myself sitting in my pants watching the X-Files on Netflix and sucking cheese dust off my fingers while I fight the urge to open a fourth bag of wotsits. “There is nothing in there but cheese,” I tell myself, “and you still have plenty of that beneath your fingernails.”
This may seem like common sense (it is), but it is frighteningly easy to forget how much your creative input affects your creative output, so remind yourself often.