What Learning to Water Ski Taught Me About Making Art


 A friend of mine was an excellent water skiier.  In fact, he could even ski backwards and with no skis at all–barefoot.  That same friend taught me how to water ski; but the greatest lesson that I learned from him was the value of the first fall.

Each time that we went out in the boat, the routine was the same.  Within 5 or 10 minutes [after he would begin a day’s skiing], my friend would take a nasty fall.  [My friend was an impressive skiier; and his falls were equally impressive].  After lashing about in the water for a few seconds, my friend would Invariably bob back to the surface and shout, “Thank Goodness for that fall!  Now, I can actually begin to ski!”  Until that first fall of the day, my friend’s subconscious fear of falling would make him tense–would prevent him from reacting naturally to the water and the waves–would prevent him from being the skiier that he was capable of being.  

Creative people can also profit from their falls.  Some call it fear of the white page [writers might call it writer’s block]. Whatever it is called, there is a paralyzing fear that often prevents a creative from beginning a day’s work.  Once having begun, the fear lessens.  I have learned that if I just go with the fear and allow myself to ruin a painting or two, my fear lessens even more.   


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