Socktober Week 2: The Pile Gets Bigger Every Day
A repeated action changes the nature of the task. First, the act is novel (even if said act is writing a novel, which I incidentally put on hold for a month to do this). Then, it is either habitual or a chore (or both). And at a certain point the action becomes a part of your day, not even expected anymore in its inevitability, simply accepted.
The transformation of an action through its repetition is particularly interesting (at least to me) when that daily action is that of making, particularly of making something very specific – in my case, a Sock Puppet. One week in to making one Sock Puppet every day and giving each a little story, this task sits somewhere between habit and novelty. Either way, I’m still having fun.
Full disclosure: this isn’t the first time I’ve made a thing a day for a month, nor even the first time I’ve made a sock puppet a day. A little more than a decade ago, when I lived in the fair city of Boston, I did as much with songs three times, and puppets twice. In both instances, I learned a lot about myself as an artist, but I learned still more about the medium or method I was repeating.
A daily task invites a kind of refinement that can’t be found elsewhere. Immeasurable increments of efficiency and inspiration emerge in ways that are impossible otherwise. Throughout my day, no matter what I’m up to or about, some part of my brain is seeking small inspirations. And gang let me tell you, small inspirations are everywhere.
When I first did Song-a-day ten years ago, for whatever set of reasons I found these small incremental inspirations came easily, whether they were in the form of a lyrical phrase, a small melody, or an instrument or rhythmic idea I teased out and built up. But when I first made a Sock Puppet a day, I hit a wall rather quickly. Before I knew it, I was gluing broken action figures to socks and bending the nature and idea of the form. And, mind you, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the results weren’t exactly displaying growth as an artist so much as a fussy lack of willingness to find a smaller range of nuance.
It wasn’t until after I’d completed Sock Puppet a day twice and was asked to do actual portraits of some people that the dam of inspiration for puppet work broke open for me. I soon saw the potential for just as much nuance and inspiration in the face of a puppet as I had in the form of a song. The difference that the subtle shift of a nose or eyebrow made laid bare for me the infinite potential of variety in this tiny canvas.
Now with each trimmed tuft of fur, with each object I see that inspires a nose, with each eyeball placed JUST SO, I find a new pile of nuance and ideas.
So I’ll keep repeating, twenty three more times and counting, and I’ll let you know when it becomes a chore.