The Four O'clock Problem

This weekend on Studio 360, Kurt and I talk about the ways that artists figure out how to get to work, what to do when they get stuck, and how to figure out when something is done.

One of my favorite stories from the chapter in Spark about work is from sculptor Richard Serra, who talks about what he calls “The four O’clock problem.”  When he was young, and working in his downtown New York City studio with his assistant Philip Glass (yes, Philip Glass the composer, who was then supporting himself as a plumber), they would invariably find themselves wrestling with a problem that they couldn’t solve at about four o’clock every day.  So this is what they would do:

“We’d get on the ferry or we’d get on the subway, because we found that if we took ourselves out of the studio and got into a space where you didn’t have to walk and you were being transported, that actually ideas were exchanged more rapidly. So we used to take ferry boat rides, sounds strange but we did, or we used to get on the subway, and ride back and forth, then go back to the studio, just to get ourselves in a different mindset.”

Excellent advice for whatever work you’re engaged in – when you get stuck, take a break!

What do you do when you hit the four o’clock problem?

Photo of Richard Serra's To Lift by wallyg