I am not a jock. I can hear my friends and family laughing at this massive understatement, but I make it to underscore that I am the last person one would expect to use a sports metaphor. However, I find myself thinking about the phrase, goal tending, and how it applies to basketball and the life of an artist.
In basketball, goal tending is a foul. Wikipedia defines it as ” the violation of interfering with the ball when it is on its way to the basket and it is (a) in its downward flight, (b) entirely above the rim and has the possibility of entering the basket, and (c) not touching the rim.” It goes on to add that “in both NCAA and NBA basketball, goaltending is also called if the ball has already touched the backboard while it is above the rim in its flight, regardless of whether it is in upward or downward flight.” Clear as mud right?
I remember my first college basketball game. I was a freshman at the University of Kentucky. My date was a member of the UK track and field team so we sat in the athletic section. I watched in amazement as my date transformed from the thoughtful, slightly shy boy I knew into a raving lunatic, swearing at the referee, questioning the parentage of various players on the opposing LSU team. One of the moments I remember most came when the referee called a goaltending foul on UK. I asked my date in confusion, “Why aren’t they supposed to tend to the goal?” My date gaped at me, clearly wondering how I made it into college with such a fundamental gap in my education. What can I say. I was a basketball virgin.
When it comes to an artistic career, I think goal tending is an absolute necessity. There are fewer clear, defined landmarks for the arts than there might be in another career. It is necessary, therefore, that you not only create your own goals, but defend them from the many distractions and detractors that come with the messy process of living.
I ran across a journal the other day that I kept while participating in a workshop using Julia Cameron’s classic book, The Artist’s Way. For one of the exercises we had to write down at least three secret desires for our work as artists. I wrote out my wishes, thinking that they were far-fetched and unlikely to come true. I wanted to have my own show, I wanted to land a large commission, and I wanted to have my work displayed in a public place. Imagine my surprise when looking through the book three years later, I found that I have fulfilled each of those desires.
Although I had not thought of that exercise in those three years, I believe that the deliberate act of writing them down pointed me in the right direction to succeed. By writing down my desires, I transformed them from wishes into goals and placed them into the back of my mind. My subconscious tended to those goals even when I was not thinking of them with the result that I had a show of my work at Beaumont Inn, I landed a large private commission, and I now have a quilt hanging in a prominent space in the Mercer County Library. Slam dunk! How’s that for a sports metaphor?