Every day for seventy years
Psychogeography: “… A whole toy box of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities … just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of their urban environments.” (Joseph Hart)
In the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Jiro, who has been making sushi every day for seventy years, knows that the only way to get close to perfection is to do the same thing again, and again, and again, every day, for years and years.
Every day he slices the fish, presses it onto the rice, glazes it with a flourish. He says he still isn’t bored. He says he still isn’t quite happy with the result.
Something happens when you are able to make friends with repetition. I don’t mean monotonous tasks that take you to the edge of your patience. I mean something you can love. That thing is that slowly you gain a deeper understanding of whatever your subject is. And at the same time you teach yourself about how good it can be to take your time.
You’ve got your whole life to get good at something. A woman said that to me once.
You run round the same park. You move back into downward-facing dog, again. You wake up to the same face in bed opposite you.
Last night I walked back from Islington to Hackney, against the path of the canal, invisible to me behind the wall: past the gardens of de Beauvoir, across Kingsland Rd from N1 to E8. I felt the of joy walking inside me, and it didn’t matter that I walk or cycle that same route every day to and from work. It felt new. Virginia Woolf used to go out “to buy a pencil”, even when she didn’t need a pencil. She noticed how walking shifted ideas around your head. As I walked last night, I had a new idea about something I want to write, and a new idea about the way I want to write, and I saw a building on the edge of the canal against the break in the skyline that I wanted to put into a story.
Moments of meaning don’t come often. You have to catch them before they flutter away.
I looked down at my legs as I walked, the legs that were carrying me home. For years I would look at them and notice the imperfections, the things I wanted to change. Last night I thought: I will have the same legs for the rest of my life. Even when I’m seventy (I hope they get me to seventy). They’ll change and veins will streak like lightning and the skin will shrivel and wrinkle. We have to live with getting old. But the same legs. For once they weren’t something to compare to a girl in a magazine’s. They are my amazing legs; they are taking me places.
I don’t think I’d ever thought this before. In all the times I’ve ever walked anywhere.
In the pub, we’d met some really cool people, two actors, one photographer. They bought us a drink and were so friendly and interested about what we were doing and writing. One of them, the actor said: whatever you will write will be good, you’ve just got to keep practicing. Keep trying, keep trying, be honest, it won’t fail to be good. The other said: when I was first a photographer I was the worst photographer in the world. He said: it’s true what they say about 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.
He said: everything you do is a step on the path to getting better.
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