Her Yorkshire accent stood out sharply against the modern Herman Miller furniture populating the stage behind her. The hallmarks of “Furniture City” seemed at odds with the old-world inflection. People settled in their squeaky seats and sipped beer from plastic cups as slide after slide passed above. One showed an extraterrestrial skate park and another depicted a carnival-colored ferry.
Sally Tallant, the director of the Liverpool Biennial in the UK, had come to speak at ArtPrize and share her city’s extraordinary transformation from industrial port town to a thriving modern art haven. Much like ArtPrize, Liverpool, undergoes an artistic takeover during the Liverpool Biennial, where artists are commissioned to work within the city’s existing infrastructure to create meaning and new purpose within the community. Her presentation showed how one artist re-imagined a skate park to become a minimalist, glow-in-the dark sculpture and another turned a World War I ferry into a colorful interactive art piece.
The question-and-answer portion of the presentation had just begun when a hand shot up from the back of the auditorium. “Why should artists even bother entering art competitions? The judges are biased and the public doesn’t understand art!” an artist demanded.
“Well,” began Tallant, “an artist should jump at every opportunity to practice their work. Any chance to be challenged will make you better. It should excite you to be given a specific set of rules or limitations and work in them to create something organic. The critical and public praise is secondary.”
I thought about her answer long after the house lights in the small theater had gone up. The disgruntled artist and Tallant were approaching their work from two different mindsets. One was frustrated by the process and saw it as a cumbersome means to an unsatisfying end. The other saw a medium’s limitations chock-full of potential, eagerly searching for inspiration within its confines.
Tallant’s belief in practice could be applied to just about any area of life—and for me, that meant writing.
Working in public relations means you are constantly writing. From a formal press release to a narrative blog, I am constantly given a new set of parameters to write in. Each newsletter or 140-character tweet is a unique opportunity to grow my writing skills.
While you might not find a direct correlation between a Facebook post and a modern art installation, the principle of practicing within different mediums is the same.
At some point, you will be asked to write. A presentation at work or speech for a wedding will require you to communicate a specific message and, much like an artist, you will be handed a framework on which to hang your words. Carving out your message will take time and effort, but will hopefully give shape to and inspire what you want to say.
Take every opportunity to write, however mundane the act may be, because while the old saying “practice makes perfect” is true, I think when it comes to the art of writing, practice makes interesting.