The Power of Ignorance

There’s a story about Art Tatum.  If you don’t know who that is, no shame, but he was one of the jazz piano greats.  One of his trademarks was how fast he could play. 

He was born with impaired vision, being only able to see things if they were very close to his eyes.  The story, which is probably apocryphal, goes that his parents, hoping that it might occupy his time, bought him a piano and some records of popular piano music of the time.  He taught himself to play by listening to these recordings.  The only thing is, no one told him that the recordings were of two pianos playing together, hence his trademark ability.  Imagine what would have been the result had he known.

When I started this adventure as a full-time artist, I knew very little.  I didn’t know how to run a business, how to do sales tax, how to write commission agreements, invoices or sales agreements.  I didn’t know how to take print quality photographs, or what equipment I would need to do so.  I didn’t know where to go to get prints made or how to approach a gallery for a show.  I didn’t know the best paints currently available, or brushes, or even paper.  There was so much I didn’t know; so much I still don’t.  The one commonality amongst all these things I didn’t know is that there is a place to go find the answers, often Google, most the time on YouTube.  I would just pick the most pressing lack of knowledge that I had at the moment, then Google it until I understood what I needed to know.

However, there was one question that I intentionally didn’t ask: Can I do it? Can I become a successful full-time artist?  For this question, I felt ignorance was power.  If it turned out that the answer was no, I reasoned that would become obvious without me asking.  Do I think I’m a successful artist now?  Maybe, by some definitions, probably not by others…yet.  But by not asking, I avoided anybody telling me I couldn’t, I avoided knowing the odds.  I was free to dive in and find my answer for myself.

If you have a dream you’re serious about, ask how to do it, ask what you need to do it, even ask how others did it.  However, I’d suggest you don’t ask anybody if you can do it.  I believe that’s a question that is only yours to answer and most likely you’ll only find the answer after you dive into the dream.  Ignorance can be power.  As Guy Clark sang in his song The Cape, “He did not know he could not fly, so he did.” 

As always, keep doing what you love.  Drop me a word or two if you feel it.  See y’all next week.