Friday, September 2, 2011

What does a creative life look like?


It is apt that a brief quote from Virginia Woolf posted on Damon Young's blog, darkly wise, rudely great, would launch a discussion about the nature of a creative life.

In despair at not travelling more, Woolf laments: "Here we toil, reading & writing, year in year out. No adventure, no travel; darker grows the fog. Here, by some invisible rope, we are bound."

To which I responded that "toiling, reading and writing, year in, year out" sounds like my fantasy existence!

Of course Damon, being a philosopher driven by the spirit of inquiry and interrogation, doesn't let you make these statements without calling on you to confront their implications!

His response: "As for the freedom to write, it's easy: just sell the house, give up your job, and brace yourself for the creative joy of relative poverty!"

Much as I can crap on about the details of my own life, this is surely a common dilemma among creative types. Please help save the comments on Damon's post, 'A Weevil in a Biscuit', from being my own personal therapy session and have your say...

What is your ideal version of a creative life? Does it have to be all or nothing?

Image: Virginia Woolf, by Roger Fry, c.1917

17 comments:

Melita said...

Oh, I think about this everyday! When I was creative full time, I was dying of depression due to the isolation and insufficient financial reward; when I worked full time, I felt my creativity was lost; when I tried to balance a day job with writing, I became very unbalanced. But I am still seeking a way to live some semblance of a creative life where I am not poor and don't feel totally disempowered. At the moment, this involves writing a blog (sort of achievable for a working mother of two) and connecting with others who share my interests and passions. I try hard to incorporate creativity into the everyday, but it's not easy. Thanks for this great blog post.

Damon Young said...

Melita, you're welcome to drop in to the conversation on my blog, if you're interested.

Melita said...

Damon, I would love to join the conversation, but the children are bouncing off the walls and flinging pizza about, the dog is pacing, the dishes are not done (well, they never are)and I have to get "dessert now, please!" And I've worked all day. But maybe tomorrow!

Kylie said...

I think I have a fabulous- and lucky- balance: I write 3 days a week during school hours (I'm a novelist, and I have two primary school aged kids) and work as a psychologist the other two. Of course, if I was the sole breadwinner this would probably be untenable, but I'm not- my husband works full time at a job he doesn't love to support our family- and me. I'm deeply grateful for it, but it seems to me that someone always misses out in families where there's at least one person trying to have a creative life... for now it's him, but I hope it won't always be.

Kylie said...

Sorry, I also wanted to add- we took a year off last year and moved our family from Melbourne to Broome (courtesy of husband's 6 months long service leave & 4 months annual leave & some leave without pay)... and I LOVED it and wrote more, but to my great surprise also found that I missed my psych job. For me, it seems, it's about balance. I love writing, but I also find it hard work, and writing every day was too draining for me mentally, even without the financial concerns. That's just me, as I said, but it certainly made me think- maybe I'm too soft for a full time creative life. I need to step back and recharge every few days.

MG said...

I work elsewhere three days a week, write the other four as well as nights. It's perfect how it is now.

Oh and hello.

Rachel Power said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Power said...

Oh, and g'day to you too, MG. Thanks for stopping by. Looking forward to checking out your blog...

Rachel Power said...

Thanks for those comments. There are so many variables in this, and I wonder if the kind of job you have makes a difference. I have writer friends who much prefer waitressing than an office job, for example -- because it feeds their writing and also stops them feeling isolated. But I can also imagine that psychology would be a great job for a writer (and you can certainly see that in your books, Kylie!). I reckon two days a week sound like a workable balance (not the four I'm currently doing). BUT, can I ask you all a question -- what do you do to stay disciplined about using the 'writing days' for writing?! When and how do you get all the other stuff done, ie. housework, general chores etc.?

Melbourne Girl said...

Housework, general chores? Only do the absolute essentials. Took me years to work this out. Also the kids are older, I have a supportive partner and non-demanding other work. This for me is what makes the writing happen.

Melita said...

I'm with Melbourne Girl. Only the essentials, and even then, they need to have a low priority. I only buy clothes that don't need ironing (surprisingly, that doesn't mean I only wear polyester). Our house is very small, so we can afford a cleaner every fortnight, which makes an enormous difference. I cook a couple of times a week and freeze stuff. I still often feel overwhelmed, though. Is there any possibility of you working three days? Four is a lot. I work full time, but I have accepted that this means I am not seriously attempting to write (at the moment, at least). But I hope that will change. I think it's great that you are exploring this topic.

Red Hen (dette) said...

I love Melita's comment about only buying clothes that don't require ironing- I rarely get the iron out, usually only when I am using it to iron something thast I am making. I remember my mother spending hours and hours geting those pesky wrinkles out of everything! She spent whole days attached to that board. She worked full time to support the family while my father went to art school. I have much better things to do than iron and even wrinkly clothes lose most of their wrinkles with body heat ;)
Balance, it is a very tricky thing to achieve isn't it? I've made comment before about being a single parent of 2 children (both at Uni now!) and in order to find some balance I have had to make choices, I too own a small house on a rather busy street but in a nice subburb that suited the kids schools, we don't have flash clothes or tv's. Most of my furniture has been salvaged and spruced up- some of the side of the road. It costs less but I like to rescue unwanted things and give them new life and that has become kind of fashionable in recent years.
I'm 46 this year and I'm still trying to find balance and each new phase of life brings new challenges. This year I have decided to continue to work full time so I can do my big european adventure, but as the kids get more and more self sufficient I am hoping to drop back to 4 days a week- enough to pay the morgage but one extra day to create.

Karen said...

I agree with the other comments about balance. I am home with three small kids, work in a very part-time capacity as a freelance editor at home and write/draw whenever I can. My reality is that I do a bit of this every day - some days are more kid focused, some days editing work takes priority, some days are housework orientated and some days are full of creative work. I do think that taking kids for walks to the park and doing the mundane, repetitive household tasks can free up your mind to wander and be creative. I try to start my day with writing, so that no matter what else happens - and it's so unpredictable! - I have done some writing, even if I'm up before the birds to fit it in!

Gondal-girl said...

Hi Rachel - here I am still banging on about this - so glad to hear I am not the only one who struggles swallowing the raw prawn. I read a heartening thing in the paper about Anna Funder, raising 3 children and taking 5 years to write her novel, but then I got profoundly green, as I wondered did her other half bring in all the bacon?

I combine part time work that is most of our bacon, with part time writing and part time parenting and part time existence in general. Sometimes I get spread so thin I can't remember what I am doing, wearing too many hats and wobbling ( like Seuss's Cat in the hat).

To get any writing time, I usually have to live with the guilts and the rushing home or pay for a baby sitter for an hour - so up to 4 hours now a week - which is much better than the one. But it is the guilt that gets me. That and missing things like finding time to read - ( I bought your book while pregnant as you interviewed my friend, thinking it would be a good companion to read while balancing the divided heart - but alas haven't had time to pull it off the shelf)

Rachel Power said...

Oh man, this is such a huge issue! I think I will have to write another post following it up -- especially that 'raw prawn' idea discussed on Damon's blog.

I reckon Anna Funder's pretty inspiring -- but, without wanting to make assumptions, she no doubt (deservedly) got an advance and possibly a grant too to write her novel.

It's about getting into a position where you can justify, financially and otherwise, turning writing (or your chosen art form) into your main occupation. As a mother, unless you established yourself before having kids, it's just so hard to get those runs on the board!!

I currently get one day (school hours) a week to write, but it's so collapsable. Almost inevitably, it will get chewed up by some freelance gig, or a dentist appointment, or a sick kid, or just some obscure chore that arises. Or the house looks like a bomb site and I can't stand it any longer!

Women, I think, find it very difficult to shut all of those competing demands and be disciplined about pursuing their passions. That is my life's lesson I suspect!

Steve Holmes Boom said...

I think that this kind of life looks as the person wants that look like. I mean if I'm living my life enjoying every second of it is a signal that you're living a creative life.
viagra online

AmeliaDraws said...

oh dear as a writer/artist only on the start of the (hopefully) emerging journey soon to have her third young child i don't know whether to laugh or cry reading this thread.......