My Photo

Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.


« A Bouquet and an Elegy | Main | Crocosmia »

July 25, 2014


Good post, Beth. I do procrastinate, as I've often admitted, but I also persist and take on difficult tasks over long periods. The procrastination usually takes place before starting something but once I'm on the way, I keep going and as you say, difficulty can be fun...well, not exactly fun but certainly addictive. And I hate giving up on anything once started, I'm muleishly stubborn and would rather re-do something ten times than abandon it. So bring on the difficulties, yes! But collective gatherings or support haven't played a part in this process for me. Don't know why, just didn't happen.

It is harder and harder for me to do things that are routine and not creative. Anything creative is fun.
BTW: Your photograph expresses perfectly the joy of creativity with all its difficulties. Very beautiful.

There's a story about the economist John Kenneth Galbraith who, when he was teaching at Harvard, was approached by a student who said he hadn't finished his assignment because he wasn't feeling very well. Galbraith, a famously tall man who had been ambassador to India under Kennedy, looked down from the lecturn at him and said, "young man, you will eventually find out that most of the work in the world is done by people who aren't feeling very well."

I wonder if various persons have different set points for frustration, like they do for happiness? Some certainly have more ability to persevere. I think one needs to experience enough joy, enough exhilaration while engaged in the creative process-before the difficulty sets in- to be willing to stick with it. Otherwise, it's just a grind. This was me taking piano lessons at age 8 or so.

Hmmm, I want to think about this, especially about Duchesse's question. I tend to agree with you about the importance of difficulty -- in fact, in teaching literature to university students, especially those who are only taking the course as a requirement, I often get them to approach the text by getting them to tell me what difficulties the text poses for them. I try to help them see that those difficulties are productive entry points, and very often they seem to learn something not only about the text but also about how to approach such knots in general. . . .
I do remember, from my years teaching piano, how difficult it was for many children to learn if they weren't coming from a background that accepted -- even required -- difficulty and the discipline required to overcome it. There aren't many experiences we offer 6 or 7 or 8-year olds anymore that expect so much work for, initially, so little reward, especially when there are no so many satisfactions more easily attainable (music at the click of a mouse -- why take months and months to be able to play a simple melody line). I'm sure there are different personal set points for frustration, but I also think that teaching frustration as an inevitable step on the way to achievement is a huge gift we often withhold. . . .
Oops, too much. And I'm thinking on the spot, so all to be taken with a big grain of salt. But thanks so much for a provocative conversation. Once again.


I've found myself (after an inadvertent start) on a photo-a-day project for 2014 which continues through both an obligation to the friend who inspired me, and a sense of the multiple rewards from the daily routine. These include (hopefully) making me a better photographer, capturing moments that would otherwise have gone unnoticed, and building up a texture of a life lived across the year.

Interestingly it's the unmotivated and dull days that make the good ones enjoyable. They all have their place, and this learnt sense of rhythm and consistency of purpose is what keeps me going.

I'm probably vastly overstating the import of a taking a single photo a day, especially when put against more serious artistic and moral endeavours, but it's a start!

I appreciate the consistency and quality of your writing.


When I think about difficulty and fun, I think of puzzles and problem-solving. It's not very fun to solve a puzzle that's too easy: there has to be a daunting knot you have to pore over.

For me as a writer, this "knotty" moment usually comes during revision rather than writing (drafting) itself. I've gotten fairly good at generating "stuff" for a first draft even if I don't particularly feel "inspired." (I love, btw, Vivian's comment about the economist who said most work is done by people who don't feel particularly well: yes, that's my experience, too!) For me, the "knotty" moment comes when you go back and review what you've previously written and try to make something presentable with it. You're trying to stitch pieces together, and there are bits that don't make sense, and there are sentences that are clunky. THIS part of the puzzle is difficult, but it's also fun: it takes time and lots of fiddling, but when you finally figure out how to get the piece to WORK, the sense of satisfaction is proportional to the amount of head-scratching you had to do to get there.

I can't imagine sticking with anything very long unless it is challenging. Once I've mastered something, it no longer interests me.

I, too, suspect that comes from a lifetime of playing sports. After I had to quit playing traditional sports like football and basketball, I took up mountain climbing and hiking because they allowed me to constantly set new goals.

I've stuck with (wildlife) photography because it constantly challenges me.

I played jazz with two musicians who were ten and twenty years older than me, respectively. I was in my 20's, and had the hubris to think that I knew how to play jazz. We played in Japan six nights a week, six sets a night. They hated each other and they hated white people and I was not a very good musician regarding playing jazz standards. Was it fun? Yes. No. But I did get much better, of course. And, many decades later, I continue to improve.

Now: writing? That is fucking hard. I try.

Hi Beth
I very much enjoyed this post and have always admired your commitment and energy to producing such a wonderfully written and illustrated blog!

I think Nick Nolte's character( a New York based, abstract expressionist painter ) in the film LIFE LESSONS, directed by Martin Scorsese, touches a nerve here. When his studio assistant tells him she is thinking of packing up painting because she is frustrated by not being ' recognized, ' he says:“ You make art because you have to - you’ve no choice but to do it. It’s not about talent. It’s about no choice but to do it…… If you give up, you were no artist in the beginning. “

Got it in one! You just turn up and do it. It's not about talent, recognition, fame, money, etc, it's about turning up and practising your craft/art. A painter once told me to be an artist is to be successful. I have never forgotten these wise words.

Keep up the great work Beth!


The comments to this entry are closed.