Monday, March 19, 2012

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Likely you have hear the joke where a visitor to New York City ask a man on the street, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The sharp New Yorker responds, "Practice, practice, practice!"

I believe that is true for anything you do when you want to get better. This, of course, includes the making of art.

This morning I was reading a review on Amazon of Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer. The book is a study about improving memory and the review included a Q&A and I found the following question very interesting.

Question (Interviewer not identified): Can you explain the "OK Plateau?"

Answer (Foer): The OK Plateau is that place we all get to where we just stop getting better at something. Take typing, for example. You might type and type and type all day long, but once you reach a certain level, you just never get appreciably faster at it. That's because it's become automatic. You've moved it to the back of your mind's filing cabinet. If you want to become a faster typer, it's possible, of course. But you've got to push yourself past where you're comfortable. You have to watch yourself fail and learn from your mistakes. That's the way to get better at anything. And it's how I improved my memory.

I agree. If your studio experience has become rote, automatic, sure, perhaps you need to shake things up. As Joshua Foer said, "You've got to push yourself past where you're comfortable. You have to watch yourself fail and learn from your mistakes. That's the way to get better at anything." And that includes making.

Here is a link to a video of Foer talking about the OK Plateau.

Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you and I assure you
I've made my share of "mistakes" and I'm always open
to learning new information.

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  1. I needed to read this. Thanks! Makes a whole lot of sense for me, right now.

  2. Me too. Thank you Gerrie. You're a doll.

  3. OHhh Excellent, and it fits in well with my current plan and philosophy...Now I'll have to read the book! TFS. :) Lisa

  4. I will have to find this mid needs a bit of reorganization... jump start by exploring something new!!! Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez stewart

  5. Yes the 'Ok Plateau' I am in some kind of need to push more again. A good reminder to push the art more again.

  6. Good video. Practice with purpose is what I got out of his talk.

  7. Thanks Christine. Yes, practice with purpose, practice with awareness of what you are actually doing and challenge yourself to do "the hard things" (whatever they are) in order to improve your skills.

    When we hear the word skills some people may feel a bit squeamish but you can't paint like a master if you don't have the skills of the master. You can't evaluate your work like a pro if you have developed the eye of a pro.

    I especially enjoyed his references to professionals who spend a large portion of their time practicing the things that they don't
    do well rather than perfecting what they can already do. To me this means you have to keep growing.

    I also appreciated the comments about playing chess with an opponent who you know almost for certain will beat you. In other words, don't just study but study with those who can really teach you something.

    Always good to hear from YOU!

  8. What a perfect descriptive term. OK plateau. I've been there for way too long. Thanks for putting this into words and sharing your sources. I will hang this in large letters in my studio, when my memory fails. I want to keep learning and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

  9. Thanks Mary! I too loved the name "OK Plateau". It's a crowded area ;-)