Over the weekend, I was reading Arthur Koestler’s book, The Act of Creation, and I was struck by the koan-like quality of the following story, which Koestler says is true:
An art dealer (this story is authentic) bought a canvas signed “Picasso” and travelled all the way to Cannes to discover whether it was genuine. Picasso was working in his studio. he cast a single look at the canvas and said: “It’s a fake.”
A few months later the dealer bought another canvas signed Picasso. Again he travelled to Cannes and again Picasso, after a single glance, grunted: “It’s a fake.”
“But cher maitre,” expostulated the dealer, “it so happens that I saw you with my own eyes working on this very picture several years ago.”
Picasso shrugged: “I often paint fakes.”
I know this feeling well—the uncomfortable feeling that even though a particular piece of my work is original, it nevertheless feels repetitive, imitative, a perfunctory variation on a theme. And in other situations, too, I sometimes feel like I’m just repeating something that worked in the past, without re-imagining it or giving it a fresh spirit. Always a warning sign to push myself harder, to break through the familiar to something new.
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.