Sometimes when I get too close to a piece of art I don’t like it anymore. Something about seeing the messiness of brushstrokes up close just makes me think of how hard it was to create. All the delusions I have about my own writing process–that procrastination is okay and one day God’s light will shine upon me and I will write a perfect novel with absolutely no self-discipline required–evaporate. I know good art takes work, but I tend to get very sweaty thinking about all the effort that’s required to be any good.
I saw Patrick Dougherty’s Shindig right before I graduated from college. I didn’t have to get close to know that Doughterty could build those structures only after years and years of perfecting his craft. He seemed to have an almost psychic ability in knowing the potential of a sapling. Shindig was the ligneous slap in the face I needed to tell me to stop procrastinating.
I spent a long time by myself in one of the structures, thinking about a sacred outdoor hiding place I found when I was seven and determined not to let anyone see me cry, snapping twig after twig to calm myself down. I hadn’t thought of that memory in years. I’m still not sure what Dougherty did to get me emotional over a bunch of sticks, but I’d like to think that one day I will figure out how to be slick like that in my own writing.
When I’m angry about being trapped in one place I think of Shindig. It makes me grateful for all the time I have, that I can guiltlessly lock myself away and get to work. There’s no place like my room.
Gabi Quinn is a writer in Madison, Wisconsin.
Patrick Dougherty (born 1945) is a stick sculpture artist from North Carolina. He has created over 300 structures and installations since 1982.