My name is William Petruzzo
I am an artist and a creative explorer.
I began my journey as a child admiring my father’s photography. I took a liking to illustration and cinema, and later to graphic design. My medium has always been visual, until recently when I began experimenting with music.
In my view, art is uniquely human, and that is how I define it: as that which is created by a human with intention. I believe there is a great deal to learn about ourselves and those around us if we give ourselves to the discipline of bringing things to life every day. Even when it’s ugly, art is love and love brings life.
I believe a happy life is one with people you love, and passions you have the freedom to pursue. I create for myself, and for my livelihood. If you are interested in commissioning my services, you can do so through the Petruzzo Photography collective.
Books I’ve Been Reading
More from the Blog
I had a conversation recently with someone about artistic inspiration. Both of us artists and photographers, he wondered whether some people were simply inspired more often than others. It’s a good question, though the obvious answer is that some people probably do get more frequent bursts of inspiration than others. But how often someone is inspired isn’t really the important question. Or, even really a relevant one.
How often are you inspired? Is it about once a week? Once a month? Ever?
When we try to answer this question, our perception is most likely clouded. We usually only remember our inspiration at times that we’ve actually done something with it. “I felt inspired by a recipe for Dorito Dust and so I went and made some”. It’s hard to forget that inspiration; I had it, and I did something with it.
This is important. That might be the only time you remember being inspired that week, but it is not the only time you were inspired.
Inspiration isn’t a binary experience. Its amplitude varies. While inspiration hits you all the time, it’s not always ample enough to get you to do anything about it. On your way to work, you take a different route and notice some really interesting architecture, but as only fleeting inspiration, it hardly even warrants the action to write it down.
On the other hand, as the amplitude of your inspiration increases, so does the likelihood that you’re going to do something with it. Creative expression costs energy, and you need a lot of inspiration to make it worth it. If you’ve ever found yourself at the fortunate crossroads of surplus energy, a great idea, and the theoretical means to carry it out, then you know just the experience I’m talking about.
The Energy to Act
The sporadic appearance of inspiration makes it seem elusive. But really, what is elusive is the energy to act on lower levels of inspiration. So where does the energy to act come from? The same place the energy to run a marathon comes from: gradual training over a long period of time.
Inspiration happens all the time. But just like your heart beats all the time hardly means that it can take anything you throw at it. If you plan on sitting on a couch 24 hours a day, your heart might explode if you try to complete a triathlon. You need to work that muscle gradually. The energy to act on inspiration isn’t altogether different. If you have a lot of energy and a lot of inspiration, it’s easy to take advantage of it. But since that’s not the case, you need to first work on increasing your energy before you can worry about the amplitude of your inspiration.
Unless we’re developing our energy to act, we won’t have enough energy to respond to low-level inspiration and it won’t ever expand to high level motivation.
So how do you work this muscle? Discipline. It sounds so unromantic. Maybe even totally against the “wistful nature” of artistic expression. But it’s not. Introducing discipline to your creativity doesn’t mean being sterile, cold or calculated in all of your creative decisions. It means always planning, and respecting the space to be creative.
Apply discipline to the designation of time and space to act creatively. For example, you could be disciplined to simply hold your camera for 15 minutes every day. Every day. Or you could be disciplined to write in a journal every day. You could be disciplined to look at images that are meant to inspire you every day. You could do nothing but sit there for 10 minutes thinking about how you can’t think of anything inspiring–just do it on purpose, every day.
You’re creating space with this discipline, for inspiration to appear.
It’s a discipline that is effective because it relies on real numbers. You are inspired every day, but you have no space to put the inspiration. No energy reserved for it. To be inspired and have nowhere to direct it means that to act on that inspiration requires not just the energy to be creative, but the energy to create the space to be creative. It’s an uphill battle.
But, by applying discipline to the creation of creative space every day, you remove a big energy barrier to acting on the lower levels. It may take some time to adjust, you may spend the first weeks of your discipline feeling like you’re not very inspired during those times. But soon, you’ll start to direct your little thoughts throughout the day into those few disciplined moments.
Discipline Isn’t The Whole Story
The rest of the story is experience.
If you make a disciplined effort to create space every day for inspiration to work its way out of you–you really do it on purpose–you will eventually start to fill that space with inspired creativity that used to just drift off. Although I’m sure there are exceptions, I don’t think there are enough of them to doubt. But what will that inspiration produce?
Inspiration is the mind pulling otherwise disconnected strings of thought, consciousness and feeling together. That’s my working definition anyway.
To increase your chances of feeling dynamic and thought provoking inspiration, you need to feed your mind a diet of different experiences. You need to shoot in a different way. You need to go to different places. You need to talk to different people. You need to break your own habits. By creating new experiences for yourself, you also create a web of thoughts and feelings that support inspiration you’ll want to act on within the creative space you’ve made for yourself.
Updated Feb 21, 2016 for word related weirdnesses.
This is a straightforward saying that most of us know. The picture it conjures is one of a hyper-perfectionist, grooming their work so meticulously that it never gets finished. The concept of perfect work becomes the enemy of done work–work that was probably more than good enough a long time ago.
But, that’s not really how most of us make ‘perfect’ into our own enemy. Instead, most of us idealize our ideas. It’s the idea that’s perfect. With impossibly lofty goals for the idea, to aim for anything less would not be the idea. I observe this tendency in my friends, my sisters and myself. But the first time I considered this dichotomy between good and perfect, was with the idea that I wanted to be someone who reads a lot. Smart people read, and I wanted to be one of the smart people.
Now, I am an avid reader, but a comparatively new one. The first book I ever read was the bible about 13 years ago. Before that it was only the back of shampoo bottles on the toilet and whatever tidbits I needed to memorize for tests. Reading always frustrated me because I could never recall everything I read. It seemed that it required a lot of time and patience and focus, and offered comparatively little. Although I failed to get through any book before then, my religious inclination at the time gave me a reason to keep going back to the same book. I thought I was reenforcing my spiritual ideology by reading the bible daily, but I was actually learning a more fundamental lesson about accomplishing things.
The bible is set up a video game that levels up faster than you. The first two books have a strong narrative and are somewhat entertaining. My initial enthusiasm to read the bible was well supported in those first books. But by the third book, Leviticus, it’s getting hard to stick with the begets and begats. It had been then that I first realized perfection was impossible. I wasn’t going to be able to make myself read consistently–do my “quiet times” daily–if I expected to fully comprehend and retain all those mundane lineage details. I also realized that trying to retain all of them was resulting in retaining mostly none of them.
I resolved to get as much as I could when I read, but to not get hung up on getting everything. I could rely on context clues later to piece things together. Or, since I believed I’d be reading the bible for the rest of my life, I’d get another shot at understanding it the next time through. And that’s exactly how it worked. Going up and down sharply in its readability, the bible trained me to just keep going. Occasionally I would find that I wanted to stop and read again to understand more fully and that was closer to the ‘perfect’ I’d originally had in mind. But a lot of the time, I wouldn’t try again until a few months later on the next pass.
It changed everything. My resistance to the task of reading my bible almost completely evaporated. Soon, I was seeking out other material to read. And then material to make it easier to read material.
Before I put the bible down for the last time, I’d read it cover to cover around 15 times. I’d also read several dozen bible-related books. The more I was reading imperfectly, the more I found myself inching closer to the original ideal, though virtually never thinking about it.
For the first 17 years of my life, wanting to read perfectly kept me from reading at all. Although, a love and habit for reading has seeded itself deeply, I still find I have to intentionally dismantle the perfectionist in my mind over each new idea. Recently, an idea for an online book club stalled out when I couldn’t figure out how to include all the features I was envisioning. A good book club couldn’t happen because the perfect one was impossible.
The underlying principle, that is relevant to most situations, is that it’s better to act than not. Usually, only actions turn into opportunities. But most of us do not act because we can’t make a mental path all the way from our present situation to the perfect one. I have friends who take jobs they hate when the job they prepared for aren’t available to them, instead of fighting for jobs a few degrees off of what they really wanted. My sisters dream of the perfect parenting plans, note their implausibility, then fly by the seat of their pants instead of starting out with a good plan that works imperfectly.
Of course these are generalities. Though I don’t make perfect the enemy of good when it comes to reading, I’m still doing it in other areas of my life. My sisters and my friends have areas of their lives where they have supplanted their perfectionist with a good actionist. For most people, this is developed where action is demanded of them. Children and work, for example–they demand action and can force the compromise. But the forced nature of it might also obscure the effect in the rest of voluntary life.
The phenomenon has come into my awareness these days. Its harder to hide the tricks I play on myself. I suspect that this is in part because of the voluntary nature of how I came to the decision to act for what is good, instead of what is perfect. It’s for this reason that I think a commitment to literature and creativity in one’s personal life is so valuable. Accepting that it can’t be done perfectly is a must, and accepting our own imperfection is a prerequisite for a life full of action, and thus, opportunity.
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