I found this in a notebook I'm reading that I filled in early 2014:
"I want to be a person who follows through. To do well and completely on everything,
Then be realistic in your promises. Act to fulfill them. I need to narrow down my everything. There will always be something that drops.
I want to make art that matters. The truthful, the personal. I have to remember why I do this. Keep my eyes pinned to the long term distance.
Telling stories matters, listening matters, sharing stories matters.
Do good work as practice, the practice is imperative, and think how I want to see my work looking back. Even when I'm dead.
Did I take enough risks? Did I write the hard stuff? Did I wrap it in honey? Is it a continuing drum?
All the playwrights out in the world now, all the writers. Facebook and social media, the internet makes it clear how swarmy and agonizing is the competition.
The success of other artists is good for me. We have so much to learn from each other right now."
I still agree with some of this. With all of the words, really. But the tone...
After spending my CIIS semester reading heavy and academic material on Alzheimer's Disease, community engaged arts practice, site-specific art-making and arts professionalism, I spent the last few days reading the satisfying and delightful literary fruit that is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (the first book I've read by her, I admit). I recommend it to everyone.
The last section, on the needed ingredient of Trust in making a creative life, spoke to me the most. I wrote down a page of nuggets from those pages this morning. Like this one:
"What you produce is not always sacred, I realized, just because you think it's sacred. What IS sacred is the time you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
This is so important for me. I tend to take things very seriously. Everything. I can see that in this bit of writing I found in my 2014 notebook. I can see the unspoken judgment and the desire to suffer for my art.
Now, I haven't intended to suffer for my art since 2010 - my drive since then has been to make art in order to live better, especially because at that time in my life I really needed to figure out how to live better. But even with that new focus, my life became all about the work, the heavy effort of it, loving the struggle, the intensity, and living to make everything harder. Out of undeclared self-punishment.
"I do not deny the reality of suffering--not yours, not mine, not humanity's in general. It is simply that I refuse to fetishize it. I certainly refuse to deliberately seek out suffering in the name of artistic authenticity." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
I'm tired of making art in this bleeding, aching way. It results in some good productive behavior, but also a lot of panic, which is not the way for me to live better while making art.
Since this summer, I've been breaking up with panic. I do this through practicing Alexander Technique and nothingness and spaciousness and by going after less. In doing so, I am getting much more interested in finding the joy in each moment as I work. In doing that, I am liking what I create a lot more.
I am asking, "How can this be easier?" "How can this be more fun?" "What can I let go of?"
In my last Artist in the World Class this semester at CIIS, the writer Anisse Gross visited our class. At one point she said that she made one year of her life all about networking. To myself I wondered, "What will 2016 be my year of?"
I'm still deciding, but I think it will be my year of joy and ease. This may sound like a cop out but for me it is a challenge. I may need to find ways to make this more specific, but I might even let that go.
There will always be hard things about art and about living, but I don't have to chase after them. Doing everything the hard way and making everything so important doesn't make me a better artist or a better person.
"It matters./It doesn't matter." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
I've been lucky in my art and am privileged in my life. I have been ashamed of this since I was a young teen learning with big attention about the ugliness in the world. It got me chasing sickness and pain to make up for the good things I have. That got me nowhere but down.
"I can either live a drama or I can invent a drama--but I do not have the capacity to do both at the same time." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Neither do I, though I sure tried. Now I'm ready to let that go. I can go with the river, live in the way I want to live, and make things for the joy of it. For the love of it.
Yes, much of my work will still be heavy, complex and brutal, because that often interests me, aesthetically speaking. But the way I work and live can be much lighter, simpler and softer. I'm allowed to let my work love me.
"Love over suffering, always." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Process notes on a work in progress. This page serves to invite you into the way I work, with weekly posts to show you the hows and whys on the whats I make.