There’s a sequence from a nature channel documentary that has stayed with me: the cheetah (fastest land animal, capable of sprinting close to 100 mph for short distances) in pursuit of its hapless prey. Following the sprint, and the meal that results, the cheetah rests. It lolls about on the grass in the shade, sometimes with its paws up in the air. In the life of a cheetah, there’s a lot more time spent lolling than sprinting.
I have come to adopt this model as the paradigm for my creative life. For all the activity (making new art, exhibiting, teaching, curating shows, marketing, etc.) there is a certain amount of time I spend doing “nothing”.
People sometimes ask me, “How do you do it all?” Of course, I don’t do it “all”, there are plenty of things I can’t be a perfectionist about. But, I have found a way to be pretty prolific, creatively. For me, the answer lies in embracing one’s inner cheetah, in other words, balancing bursts of frenetic creative activity with blob time. We must give ourselves permission to rest, to digest, to daydream.
It’s become a sort of short-hand expression: when artist-friends ask me what I’m working on, sometimes I’ll just say, “Paws in the air.”