The Art Of The Possible

“Politics is the art of the possible.”
Otto von Bismark

I’ve always been fascinated by this quote, attributed to the 19th Century German politician known as the Iron Chancellor. On the one hand it recognises how human interactions, especially when they involve matters of power and social importance are always an extended dance of improvised negotiation.

But, on the other hand, there’s more than a hint of pragmatism in this quote as well – it offers no hint of idealism or even much scope for ethical commitment.

Here And Now, In This Place

Still, in the past year, I’ve often wondered what “the art of the possible” means in terms of creativity. I guess because so much of my circumstances in the past, nearly two years in Singapore, have been less than I had hoped for and different to what I had realistically expected.

I find myself, day after day, saying “well let’s focus on what is possible, here and now, in this place, with what I have.”

Keep The Project Moving

The interview above, with music producer Chris Lord-Alge is pure gold for anyone interested in how creativity works in the field of music. Lord-Alge is very open about what it takes to work with people in a high-pressure musical environment. One idea he riffs on a number of times basically says, “there are no rules, just keep the project going.”

It hit home for me, since I have lost much of this month (so far) to a rather nasty ear infection. I had hoped to be recording new original work right through March, but instead I found myself almost unable to hear out of my right ear for most of the last two weeks. It’s clearing up now, but I’ve had to adjust my goals, since I not only couldn’t hear well, but I was prone to sudden spells of dizziness and headaches as well.

I refocussed by making a list of things I could do given this condition. So I cranked through a bunch of less than glamorous tidying and administrative tasks. I also set up new folders and templates for the recording I will be doing now my ear has healed.

Another Small Example

Yesterday I found myself in the Eunos Industrial District here in Singapore (a fascinating place I will revist and photograph). I was there to pick up some fibreglass material, which I am today putting into enclosures to help balance the sound in my studio.

I’m blessed with a wonderful sounding room here in Singapore. A high, asymmetrically racked wood panelled ceiling does a lot to dampen and control the sound. But, I wanted to improve on it a little more.

I had tried to buy some material from Owens Corning, since the perfectionist in me wanted the best dampening on the market. But, the local distributor was less than helpful. I needed 10-12 sheets (120x60cm), but the distributor would only sell to me if I ordered a whole container full and paid up front.

So I settled on the material I could find locally, despite the internal struggle and desire to get what I wanted from overseas, whatever the cost. The art of the possible.

Momentum Wins

There’s a lesson that’s unravelling itself here, about the importance of momentum, of the day to day battle to keep original work alive and moving forward. It’s also a lesson about the way we speak to ourselves, about being kind to our muse and inner motivations when circumstances are unhelpful, about learning to say “well I can’t do that, but I can do this instead.”

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInDigg thisBuffer this pageEmail this to someone


  • Toni - 16th March 2013

    Momentum is enormously important, especially when working on tasks that are creative instead of simply adding ‘A to B, then mix 1 min’ etc.

    As for the quote, I think many would suggest politics is the art of manipulating others to your own will, which doesn’t entirely disagree, but does put a darker spin on it.

    • Fernando Gros - 22nd March 2013

      Toni – yes, it’s so hard to pick up on something when it goes cold. Sometimes even just an hour here and there to keep something moving can make a difference. Though, there’s no substitute for throwing a big chunk of time at a project.


Leave A Comment

About Fernando Gros

I craft photos, along with music and words, in my Tokyo and Adelaide studios. I was born in Chile, have travelled through 43 countries and over the last 15 years lived in Sydney, London, Delhi, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo. This site and my book, No Missing Tools, help people like you be more creative and solve the world’s most frustrating question, “What do you do?”


Sign up now and get chapter one of my book, No Missing Tools, for free.

© 2015 Fernando Gros | All Rights Reserved