Art Matters, and So Do You
Yesterday, I stayed up late into the night compiling an anthology for 28 young playwrights of their plays, after working feverishly on that much of the day in-between teaching and other creative tasks. Mostly I did this because I didn't know these students had written 165 pages worth of short scripts, but also I felt a need to get every page formatted as well as I possibly could. Despite my bleary eyes and delirious 2am brain, I still felt I needed to prove something to this class of 5th graders, to myself, to the written word, who knows.
The truth is, as much as I'm trying to find a way of working that is both balanced and sustainable as well as productive, old habits keep me pushing past my reservoir's limits in ways I know are ridiculous.
This past Sunday, I took my birthday off of work. That was the first day I spent away from the internet, assignments and deadlines since...maybe the winter holiday? The Sunday before, my last CIIS class meeting ended, finishing out my final MFA cohort weekend. Somehow I thought my schedule might loosen up, but it's the time of the year for everything to be due, and catching up on all the piled up work reminds me that I was trying to go to school full time on top of a full time work load for two years.
Now that my professional, teaching and creative tasks are asking for my 100 percent attention, it's a shifting of the what, but not of the how much. This is all stuff I love, so I want to do it well. So to my endurance, stamina, energy, I ask, keep up, keep up, just a little longer.
Yet I've been saying just a little longer for years now.
This is going on everywhere, it's that final stride season in academics, in the theater, in every creative person I see. Spring is the deadline marathon. I hear artists in hushed voices say, when will the projects end? Others I talk with are trying to hold on to motivation, to good attitudes and cheer, others are barely breathing past the overwhelming oppression of everything on their plates. None of us want to say anything about it, for fear of the phone silencing for future calls, but our bodies and expressions are saying it for us. Sometimes it feels taboo to say, it's hard, what we're doing.
Right now, I want to say it for you, to you (for us?). It's hard what you're doing. You're doing the impossible. I believe in you. You make me dizzy with your ambitious dedication and gorgeous craftsmanship. That's not easy.
I think that as artists, even during crunch times, it's scary to admit that what we do is hard. Maybe that's because artists in this 21st Century culture, at least in the U.S., are rarely seen as diligent workers, but as luxuriating hobbyists. So instead we say, just a little longer, we can make it. Another month, another couple weeks, another show, another class, another day, whatever it is. And we can. We show that. We do that. We prove that we are doing something valuable with our hours and effort.
Part of this go go go is the art animal in us, needing to make beauty, wanting to show our work and make the world better. Part is that addictive busy disease of this century, mixed with the burst of dopamine from getting asked to do something we really want to do, despite that something living on top of a mountain of other somethings. We share and make and do. We say yes and go further than we can. Part is creative, part is destructive.
Because some of that need to keep going, make it through, and make great stuff is a wonderful human and artistic need, I say: Yes. You can do this. You are a powerful warrior and an inspiring force. You can make wonder right now. This is important. Thank you for making your art.
Because some of that need is part of the machine we've built out of our lives and time and culture, I say: That's enough. You can stop now. You are enough. You've done enough. Give yourself some human time. Fill up that reservoir and be. Thanks for taking care of yourself.
Because each of you are your own wonderful individual selves, and each of your moments and actions may sit on different points on the continuum between these creative/destructive extremes, I say: Do what you need to do right now, for yourself, for your art, for your now and future life. Maybe today you need to continue into the deep morning, working on a mountain of to-dos or finalizing an enormous project. Maybe this moment you need to take a break, float like a jellyfish and watch lilacs grow.
Whatever you decide right now, thanks for what you're making and sharing and being. What you're doing matters. The world needs it. And you matter. The world needs you, too.
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: