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3rd September

Sailing rather than rowing

To get the writing juices flowing Jessica, my editor, suggested I start each morning with seven minutes of ‘free writing’. It doesn’t matter what you write about, she said, just keep your pen moving on the paper.


This sounds easy; nobody will read it so what is there to worry about? Even so, I wondered in which notebook I should start scribbling. I decided not to use the fancy leather one; it would be a pity to use that expensive notebook for something that’s not going to be published. So I opted for a cheaper one.


Then I asked myself if I should write in Dutch or in English. Now that I write the pieces for my blog in English, Dutch has become the language in which I jot little notes to myself.

Dutch is to English what the sturdy, less expensive notebook is to the elegant leather Smythson, so I decided to write my morning thoughts in Dutch.


The biggest obstacle, however, was to decide what to write about. I felt that even though this was just a warm-up exercise I should put what I write to good use.


That thought made me realise what my problem is: I feel that I cannot waste time because I still have so much to do. This self-imposed burden frequently works as a lid that keeps what I have to say bottled up in me. My fear of wasting time makes me waste time.


I wonder if the video artists my foundation commissions have the same anxiousness and if so, how they deal with it. Does the deadline for the productions help them to get going or does it only add to their angst? Does it help that we and the curators of the art institutions that will show their new productions are available for support, just as my editor helps me? But above all, do they have the same stifling feeling I have, that what we create is somehow the justification for our existence?


The trouble is that one video or one book, however wonderful, will never feel like enough. Neither will two, three, or a hundred. We may be mildly content about some of the things we have done, but it never abates our urgent need to create. This urgency is the motor that keeps us going, but the price we have to pay is the constant feeling that so much more has to be done while time is running out.


There is one enormous saving grace though. When I write, very occasionally, I become one with what I do. From conversations with our artists, I know they too sometimes enter ‘the flow’. When that happens, I feel that I’m sailing rather than rowing. And that is, without doubt, the best way to go through life.

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