Making Time For Strategic Thinking

A local daytime restaurant I frequent some months back decided to open up for dinner a few evenings a week. It’s been a great success, so much so that they have decided to close on one of the evenings. This counter-intuitive response to success is founded on interesting logic. The additional work has meant the owner has no longer time to spare for strategic thinking. I like it.

When I was in practice as a lawyer, I remember a highly successful salesman telling me that diarising time for thinking about marketing was essential. For various reasons, he recommended Thursday morning as prime time for successful marketing initiatives, and so that’s what I did. Not a natural sales person, I tended to otherwise bury myself with ‘productive’ work, and my Thursday morning slot for pondering practice development worked really rather well.

A shame therefore that I have been less organised with my art practice. Even leaving aside selling work, there’s an important aspect of practice called contextualisation and criticality (the theoretical and academic and contemporary underpinning of work) which is very easy to forget about in any formal sense when you are going through frantic activity periods. When you realise you are living off an artist’s statement a couple of years old (bar intermittent tweaks), it’s clearly time for a fundamental rethink. Well, in my case it is. Pinning down what my practice is all about  can prove an elusive, slippery exercise. I feel it instinctively, I recognise it in my work, but articulating it in a concise and easily readable format is surprisingly hard.

One obstacle is that I intensely dislike labelling and categorising. Since I have complete freedom to respond in any way I wish to any subject which interests me, it seems artificial sometimes to try and pin it down even for a week. And I am a lawyer by training.  I don’t like to think of words being thrown back in my face, and I sometimes think I approach my practice statement much as a contract lawyer acting for a licensee would negotiate a licence. With as much flexibility and as little real restriction as possible.

I’m also constrained by the nature of language. Too ‘art discourse’ and it’s laughable to the outside world. Too little ‘art discourse’ and it’s not taken seriously by the art world. Well, that’s something of an exaggeration, and maybe the solution is constant adaptation to the prevailing circumstances. Except it would be nice to keep it simple.

Anyway, the time for re-thinking and re-drafting has arrived. I plan to spend a good part of the summer doing serious reading and pondering on where my practice currently stands. I have yet to diarise Thursday mornings, but I’m close.

Watch this space.


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