to feed the fire


I am still working my way through the book, An Absorbing Errand by Janna Malamud Smith, underlining passages and relating her words to my creative pursuits.

Art-makers and craftsmen are both exorbitantly inside and yet insistently, existentially outside themselves. By going in, they go out. And vice versa. To feed the fire, they must gather kindling in deep woods. And while dragging back branches, often becoming tangled in the briers, they have the opportunity to listen and to look around.
— Janna Malamud Smith, An Absorbing Errand
True happiness, we are told, consists in getting out of one’s self; but the point is not only to get out — you must stay out; and to stay out you must have some absorbing errand.
— Henry James from the novel Roderick Hudson
So too it matters to your mastery and your quest for satisfaction that you show up repeatedly to your bench, studio, or desk. If you bicycle several miles each week, however slowly and miserably, there comes a day when the air is clear, the humidity just right, and you suddenly float along effortlessly in an almost inconceivable lightness of being. Your muscles don’t tire. You feel you could pedal forever. On other days, no matter how much you may wish for the same lightness, the same ecstasy, it is nowhere to be found; you cannot will it. The experience is the result, first and foremost, of setting out. The more days you take to the road, the more opportunities you have to experience a moment as a “gift.”
— Janna Malamud Smith, An Absorbing Errand
And while you may complete many projects, the labor itself is never finished, the mastery never final. This incompleteness, by turns fetching and vexing, is part of its essence.
— Janna Malamud Smith