I finally put that diptych to rest -- maybe only temporarily, I suppose: it may need more work, but I need to move on, for now.
I finished "in a rage" -- pushing myself against the deadline of picking my son up from school, my head in a swirl, concentration muscles straining. Half unable to concentrate, really -- which can work sometimes. I made an effort to remember what I was saying to myself (because I'd like to know if you can conjure up those thoughts that you hear when you're working well, and apply them when you're not), and it was: "I can do this; I can handle this. Anything that goes wrong, I can fix. I can find a way out." Willing myself into "flow" mode, or willing the flow not to leave me till I got done. A sort of false bravado -- when you have to will it, maybe it's already not there.
But then there's that saying, something like, "Whether it's possible or impossible, believing makes it so."* When you're working, you can convince yourself of all kinds of things. It's as if the fantasy spigot has been turned on in your mind -- any thought can be entertained as viable, somehow. And so I'm able to imagine that I can do no wrong with paint, and that if I err, I have the power to redeem the error, almost instantly. Something about rushing, too, impels the force of that belief: You're hurtling headlong toward the end of the painting, and you marshall all your wits and see everything "all at once" -- which enables the "all at once" effect you want. I just wish I could turn that on more often in the painting process. Maybe if I can identify it better, I'll be more able to call it forth?
It's funny: I was just reading science fiction writers writing about writing in this week's New Yorker, and my thoughts above sound like science fiction: "calling forth the force," etc. I read somewhere else recently that many artists feel that they create their work "in a kind of trance," and I like that idea. In part because I can tell myself when I'm not working: "You can't think about that (problem you're having with your painting) now; you can't fix that now." I put aside my queries until I'm working -- until I'm in a position, and frame of mind, to do something about them. And then when I am at work (I tell myself), I'll have the "trance" to help me out.
*Googled it: It's Shakespeare, and the slant is different: "Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."