The Blind Man and the Art Museum

At South By Southwest this year, I had the privilege of meeting Matthew Smith. I had some very thought provoking conversations with Matthew. One conversation in particular made an impression on me. Matthew told of a project he worked on for his bachelor’s thesis: he went to an art museum dressed as a blind man—sunglasses, walking stick and all. He’d approach someone looking at a work of art and ask them kindly to describe the painting to him. Usually, the initial response was somewhat shallow, so he would continue with more probing questions: “Can you describe the artwork in greater detail?” and “Why do you think the artist painted it that way?”

The responses were amazing. The pretense and second-guessing that often keeps these observations and perspectives all bottled up inside folks suddenly fell away when they thought they weren’t going to be judged by someone else looking at the painting. There was a freedom that came with the blind man’s question.

That got me thinking a great deal about my writing. Anyone who has followed my blog over the years knows that I struggle a great deal with pretense and self-consciousness. I like to call it “editor’s block”. The problem isn’t that I don’t write, it’s that the editor in me ends up chucking most of what I write in the garbage before it sees the light of day.

And in many instances, filtering is good; it’s important, gives value, especially when you consider that 75% of what people write is pure drivel. That’s why I choose very carefully which articles make it to my blog. I want that to be a worthwhile experience for readers of my site.

But that’s not the point of my journal.

My journal is a proving ground for thoughts. My conversation with a blind man about art, as it were.

So, I’m starting something new: a writing regimen. Every day, as often as I can, I’ll spend 15 minutes writing about anything and everything. I’ll spend about 5 minutes beforehand thinking through what I’m going to write about, but after 15 minutes of nonstop writing, the timer will ring and I’ll wrap it up. And if my percentages are right, about 75% of what you’ll read here will be worthless.

But that’s ok. If you want refined, cohesive thought, go buy a book. These are my ramblings to a blind man.

Note: I’m planning to redesign my site shortly to make it easier for reading, but I didn’t want that to hold this project up.

Freewrite #1