For slightly under an hour today, I was in the studio, having fun. I have writing assignments to finish, so I’m not spending as much time in the studio as I’d like. But when I’m there, I’m there completely. Today, I was playing with photographs. Just playing. Not making cards, not journaling, just seeing if I could . . . well, I couldn’t. But now I know what went wrong, and I think I can still manage to create the same outcome. That’s for another time.
This kind of experimentation without expectation of success or project completion is valuable. Priceless, in fact. Working without attachment. No fretting about time limits, no need to complete something, no need to have something conventionally pretty when I’m done.
Last Saturday, when two art friends and I made Monsoon Papers, we had no idea when we started what would happen at the end. Working that way is fun and easy. I avoided judging the progress of my paper and kept adding and washing off color. Was it too dark? No, it was just “trending toward dark.” I was learning which inks do what.
I noticed we laughed a lot. I noticed we shared inks and water easily. I noticed I was having a good time. Had I been attached to the outcome, I might not have noticed that, but worried that the colors were too dark, or wondering how I could use the paper, or if the pizza would be OK for everyone.
Non-attachment doesn’t mean not caring. I cared very much, just not about my
career as an artist, or how much I could sell this piece of paper for, or what I should do with it. I cared about what was happening in the moment. That was enough.
Non-attachment doesn’t mean not planning. I carefully chose each color as I applied it. But I was not concerned if it didn’t do what I thought. I made note of what happened, it left room for learning instead of having learning squeezed out by disappointment.
Non-attachment to a project means you allow each step to happen, and learn from it. It’s very hard to master if you are competitive (and yes, I am), but mastery will allow you to live longer. And be happy doing it.
—Quinn McDonald is working on non-attachment, as she is on many other long-term skills. She is still impatient.