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Talkers and doers by Robert Genn

Talkers and doers
by Robert Genn

When I was a poverty stricken student at Art Center School in Los Angeles I was frequently called in to see Karla Martell, the registrar. Tardy payment of fees was one of the reasons for my summoning, but more than once she spoke of my failure as a student and as a human being. "Looking over the reports from your instructors," she said, "they are pretty well consistent in saying that you talk a good job and do a poor one."

Shocked as I was at the time, I decided on a vow of silence and to henceforth "understate and over-prove." Overnight I became the "Silent Sam" of the classroom. Karla's warning was an epiphany. I turned a new leaf.

More and more in later years I've come to realize that shutting up is not only cathartic, it's a positive technique for quality control and improvement. Folks who know me well often remark on my reluctance to talk about my own work and my habit of dragging on about the work of others. Here's why:

When you talk, you gradually lose your need to do. Each word is a brick removed from the wall of your desire. When you tell someone, you let the wolverine out of the oil drum and spoil the excitement of the final unveiling. Your creativity is like a dam where the floodgates must be opened only at your choosing. A crack will leak the power that lies within.

Silence focuses your eyes on your process. When you do not surround or precede your effort with your own verbiage, meaning and purpose are more likely to come out of the end of your brush. Literary considerations (the red barn and the golden sunset), the bane of visual workers, are kept in a holding cell until court can be held.

We all know of people who constantly talk about how they are going to do this and that. While it's upsetting to them, it's often worthwhile to let them know the reason they are not doing it is because they are talking about doing it. No matter how you encourage talkers to get on with it, it's been my observation that talkers generally keep on talking and are most highly realized when they are in groups, conferences, classrooms, lectures and social events. Doers generally have their workplace already set up, are naturally drawn to their tools, and are comfortable not saying much about what they're up to. Some of us have to learn that.

Best regards,


PS: "Silence is a source of great strength." (Lao Tzu) "Drink at the source and speak no word." (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev) "Learn silence. With the quiet serenity of a meditative mind, listen, absorb, transcribe, and transform." (Pythagoras) "A closed mouth gathers no foot." (Frank Tyger)

Esoterica: The Zen-like trance of silent working precludes overly-optimistic planning and poor-me whining. Yes, you can pipe music into your head--but be yourself mute. "Remain quiet," says Paramanhansa Yogananda. "Don't feel you have to talk all the time. Go within and you will see the loveliness behind all beauty."

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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