If you like Benedict Cumberbatch, this will make your day. If you like Sol LeWitt, this will make your week; if you also love and adore Eva Hesse, your entire month will be made. If you know none of these people and are just having a bad day, all will be made right in six minutes or less.
In April of 1965, artist Sol LeWitt wrote a letter of encouragement to his friend Eva Hesse, a sculptor. She had just moved to Germany with her husband (who she later divorced) and felt what most people feel at some time or another when they try to make something: like shit. His supportive, hilarious, crude, and fiercely genuine letter to her became a classic because it says exactly what needs to be said in times like these—shut up and do the work rather than questioning yourself. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s better to make mistakes. Just do the work.
Benedict Cumberbatch read the letter a few weeks ago at a London event called Letters Live (a series where famous people read famous people’s letters) and, of course, he sticks it in and breaks it off in a way only an actor with curly, floppy hair and an unbuttoned shirt can.
The letter is long (as it should be), but make absolutely sure you watch Cumberbatch reading this entire first section:
It will be almost a month since you wrote to me and you have possibly forgotten your state of mind (I doubt it though). You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just
The rest is fantastic too, and full of genuine reminders not to worry so much. Stop thinking! Be empty!
Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever — make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your “weird humor.” You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool.
… stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistant [sic] approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end.” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to
This kind of advice will never die and will always come in handy. Save this video and revisit it whenever you need a nudge.
Also, here’s a fantastic picture of Eva, who died at 34 of brain cancer, leaving behind loads of beautiful work—because she didn’t stop doing.