“You should make books and sell them at the Farmer’s market!” said a co-commuter, as we were waiting for the train this morning.
I was bringing in a large unused canvas I had stashed in our shed to give to a coworker, and my commuter friend asked me, “Oh, do you paint?”
I explained what I was doing with the canvas, and how it had been some time since I’d devoted any time to painting on a canvas of this size. I asked her whether she did.
“I used to… in high school. I’d like to get back into it but I just don’t have the time to devote to it.”
This has got to be one of two of the most common phrases I hear in relation to art making. The other is something along the lines of “Oh, I’m not artistic.”
Then, when she asked me (the inevitable question) whether I’d sold my work, I told her “Mostly, no.” I told her that I for the most part worked in a book these days, journal-style, so I showed her some photos, which elicited “Oh, you’re really good!” followed by the sentence I started this blog post with.
I am good. I know this. I can always get better, and practice does improve one’s skills. I know this too.
Here’s the thing. Not that many years ago I made a choice. I chose not to make a living through visual art.
I struggled with this for a long, long time. When I was at the top of my young life, it was something that I felt I was meant to do, but after I left art school without completing my degree, I began working in offices. It didn’t take me long to get mired down by debt. Then I married and a whole different lifestyle took center court.
A few years into motherhood, I decided to try to revisit the art-as-a-living thing and struggled for a while longer trying to figure out how to manifest this desire that sat in the pit of my stomach into something more tangible – something that would provide enough income to replace the one I was earning through other means.
I never did figure it out. I flailed – wildly – and in the end those aspirations were left behind, along with the rubble of a failed marriage.
Not the art, though.
When people claim “art saves lives” I can really get behind that phrase. It’s saved mine innumerable times, has been along with me on my life journey and has always provided refuge.
It’s provided a way for me to express the things roiling inside of me that I could not – did not even know how to – bring out in any other way.
The book I’m reading at the moment, A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, (all M.D.’s), had some interesting passages about the complex functioning of the limbic brain, and how human intuition works.
“As we move through the world we tend to presume that success comes from understanding. The brightness of rationality’s narrow beam makes this supposition nearly inescapable. “Reason is the substance of the universe,” Hegel crowed in an age when science still expected to explicate everything. But these memory studies have intuition leading comprehension by a country mile; they reveal our lives lit by the diffuse glow of a second sun we never see. When confronted with repetitive experiences, the brain unconsciously extracts the rules that underlie them. We experience the perceptible portion of this facility as a gathering pressure in the solar plexus, ready for use but defying description. Such knowledge develops with languorous ease and inevitability, stubbornly inexpressible, never destined for translation into words.”
On the following page they speak to how children learn language, but I find this very summative of the creative process as well:
“Every language is intricate, but is not chaotic; the underlying uniformities reveal themselves to the neural systems poised to pluck recurring patterns out of a sea of experience. […] Behind the familiar bright, analytic engine of consciousness is a shadow of silent strength, spinning dazzlingly complicated life into automatic actions, convictions without intellect, and hunches whose reasons follow later or not at all. It is this darker system that guides our choices in love.”
I believe that it is this same system, that when tapped into, provides me with the essence of my creativity. I’m pretty sure that’s where it comes from for all of us.
While I’ve moved from one art form (visual art) to another (writing), I notice that the way in which it comes into being is different, but not the place from which it derives. For me, the drive to create is innate and autonomic… something I must do.
I’ll close this meandering post with this: create (if you want to) if there’s something that crouches in your solar plexus that wants to be outwardly expressed.
If it feels right, sit with your body for a while and make room for the process to unfold in your life.
I have found that it is profoundly enriching, and even at times life-saving. A birthright.
SATURDAY, APRIL 9, 2016
(started around 10:54AM)
I just sat down to write.
Tangent: thought of a title and storyline earlier today, so noting it.
Ok, now with that out of the way, I can write. This is my pre-writing session, a way to purge all of the detritus littering my brain that keeps me from focusing properly (this may be a very long pre-write, because my brain feels as saturated as an over wet noodle and about as absorbent).
It’s sunny again. So grateful for the wonderful weather we’ve been having. The grey months just wear me down (and everybody else, clearly, because the people that were previously grumpy and long of face are now smiling and kindly again – it makes being a cashier much more pleasant when people’s moods improve).
So let’s start with today.
After working all week at my regular job and three nights in a row at my part time one (Wednesday through Friday), days which begin at around 6:30AM and end at around 11:45PM, (*early*) this morning the cats decided that they were hungry sometime between 5 and 5:30AM – on the one day that is supposed to be my day of rest (theoretically, of course).
Someone (who I now know was Gabriel) awoke and fed the little beasts, but within a half hour they had decided that now that their bellies were sated, they wished to go on a walkabout outside.
The doors are locked, so they then proceeded to (loudly, persistently) meow at our closed bedroom doors (because we assume that with the doors closed, they will leave us alone and opt to snooze until the humans decide to get up – but no), increasing the intensity and decibel levels of their complaints incrementally until someone finally gets up. (This could probably be considered to be a form of torture.)
We didn’t do so in time to avoid the banging that came about some time between 6:30 and 7AM. I came out of my room still sleep dazed, looking for the object responsible for the loud crashing sound – I thought it was my painting and easel in the living room that got toppled, but no – it turned out to be the curtain over the window next to the front door.
Vader, after unsuccessfully trying to open the window that sits over a two story drop from the second floor down to the entryway landing, fell from the ledge and not only knocked down the curtain pole but summarily broke the wooden support piece as he fell, and pulled the thing right out of the wall because he is such a huge beast, even with the weight he’s lost from running around the neighbourhood now that he is allowed to go outside. He is also a goof. If there was a picture in the dictionary next to the word “goof”, it would be his.
So after this last sleep disturbing incident, I picked up the curtain pole, curtain and broken support piece, put them down on the living room couch, and then proceeded back to bed to attempt a few more hours of sleep upon which the meowing at the door resumed, the beasts now pressing their mouths right into the crack under the door, repeating the aforementioned meowing from that position – you know, just to be sure that we hear them more clearly.
I finally threw in the towel around 8:30 and got up. My son’s girlfriend had already left for work and much to my surprise hadn’t opened the door to let the cats out (which is what they were whining about in the first place). I finally liberated them and silence ensued. I debated whether I should lay back down to catch up on the hours of sleep that I’d forfeited throughout the morning or just get up and down enough coffees to feel reanimated… because I have work to do… lots of writing.
And as I write this, I realize that I’ve signed up for one of Hal Croasmun’s hour-long screenwriting talks (this one a study of Forrest Gump, a movie I have long admired and adore) and it is now 14 minutes in, so I’ve summarily missed the boat. Disappointment. I’m considering joining it anyway, even this late into the game.
It turns out the call lasted well over the hour I thought it would be. I jumped in 16 minutes in and still got most of the material. The discussion was about writing a profound screenplay, and what makes a story profound – how to develop the profundity throughout the work by way of intellectual, emotional and action ‘gradients of change’. Interesting and something I might like to explore in more depth but definitely won’t be able to this April. Too much on my plate as it is.
So I’m about ready to sit down to write some more on my story and more than half the day is over. ::sigh:: This is when a time-turner would be a useful implement.
I’m waiting for the kettle to boil. Apparently it was a good time to broom off the back deck, clean off the outside side table, water the plants and give my ceramic Buddha a bath INSTEAD OF WRITING. Also, I clearly need a chai tea in order to get into the proper mood.
Hey… it’s now 3:18 and the chai is still sitting on the counter, waiting for a splash of milk, I’ve reviewed this “morning-ish paper”, corrected grammatical inconsistencies and am now finally contemplating double-clicking on the Word document that the story I want to work on is in and hope to add some more material to today (and submit to my cohort, which was actually due last Tuesday but because they are such an understanding lot, feel compelled to extend to me some slack – because have I mentioned I work too much?).
Between the brooming and the putting the kettle on to boil, I also cleared out most of the sink (loading the dirty dishes into the dishwasher), wiped the counter down, loaded the compost “bucket” (which is actually an old plastic ice-cream container).
The chai is now appropriately milk splashed, but not before I determined that the older milk jug in the fridge was just on the brink of turning; it was emptied, rinsed out twice and a new jug opened. Also, the alternate title for this post came to me just as I was reaching for the second milk jug*.
(*My dyslexia is reaching alarming proportions today too; can’t tell you how many times I spelled jug as “jub”. It’s either fatigue or simply distraction – I feel as flighty as a hummingbird. It could be call of the sunshine; the back door is open and the limbs of the trees in the backyard are nodding in the slight breeze. I think they’re saying “come outside – the weather’s fine!” The sound of Saturday afternoon traffic is steadily streaming into the room as I longingly stare out the French doors.)
Alright. I’m calling this pre-writing post done. I’m off to stare at a bunch of words on my computer screen and see if anything wants to be written down. Or maybe I’ll go out onto the now immaculately swept deck to have a nap in the shade, with my cooling chai tea next to me.
The soft sound of rainfall can be heard through my barely open window. I could not have asked for better weather during these seven days. It’s been sunny and warm the whole time.
I rested, but I got a lot done, too. I cleaned for days, but I wrote too, and last Friday I read one of my pieces at an open mic in town. I’d been stressing about it all week so I’m glad I got that over with. It wasn’t as awful as I’d imagined and my son and his girlfriend came to support, though they arrived just as I was stepping off the stage.
The highlight of the evening for me was to meet my TWSO cohorts and the very delicious elderflower and cucumber gin tonic that I had, which I had to replicate yesterday because it was the perfect drink to sip on a warm sunny day.
I have to admit that the less expendable time I have, the more precious it is. I savoured every single day that I had off, and while I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, everything I did was done with an elevated sense of mindfulness and appreciation.
The moon and planets grind their way across the skies; do I need to consult an oracle for my next move?
Money is tight, always; I’m bled dry of it, or of time – there’s always a drought somewhere,
and something to complain about; it makes me feel good to bitch even though nothing good comes
of it. Sadness seeps into a life like water from fracking ponds, through hidden cracks in the dirt,
even when we were all told that everything would be fine, that it was safe, a good thing, like aspartame;
it’s in everything, like GMO soy; we eat it because we hurry, hurry, through the days, a little manic.
I used to say “I’m getting too old for this shit” but now I really am, here in this city where youth trumps
experience despite yearning to learn, even in my middle age – there’s the dissonance that rings, alarms.
It sings so loud it hurts, but we women, we can be cruel to each other, we breed contempt
like Siamese cats or pit bulls, a good idea until someone gets their eyes put out or the dog put down.
We speak of change but we aren’t ready to be uncomfortable; it has to be at someone else’s expense,
and to help make a life comfortable is unseemly, too generous and unthinkable – everyone needs
their own bootstraps to pull themselves up by, even if they keep pulling on straps long worn to shit.
We women, we learn from the men, to be cold and calculating, claw at each other, vying for a win
without a victory; the competition never ends and we are divided and conquered, losers all.
No stars need to tell me that things need to change; each day is another lesson in humility.
Just ask the lady on the corner asking for change with her cardboard sign, wrinkled and spent,
the wave of the future, but who’s listening through the din of gentrification, red-soled heel clicks?
Lost a job 2 years ago but can’t find myself; I’ve looked everywhere – it all costs money I don’t have.
Preach it to the choir sister, maybe the chorus will finally be loud enough for them others to hear.
(c) Adriane Giberson 2016