Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Art versus life (have I used this one before?!)

I know there are people out there who live extraordinarily creative lives. Their whole existence is an artistic project. They are their own work of art!

For me, though, art and life (while obviously reliant upon each other--well, art on life, anyway) can feel in constant competition for my attention. In a recent interview, I found myself saying that I feel like I'm making little choices every day between having a good life or a writing life! Which sounds stupidly dramatic, but unfortunately is the way it can feel to me sometimes. There doesn't seem to be enough time for professional work, creating a beautiful home, cooking good meals, organising activities for the kids, school committee meetings, keeping up with friends, occasionally saying hi to my partner in the hallway, enagaging with world and all its political/environmental/social/financial crises etc etc... and having my own creative life too.

As you can probably tell, I've felt like I've lost my mojo a bit lately on the writing front. Though my garden is looking pretty wonderful. I know it's all so predictable, really, to have these times when the mountains of self-doubt seem too huge to conquer (or bypass) in order to forge ahead. It's a bit like that inevitable moment during childbirth when you hear yourself saying "I can't do this. I don't think I can go on!" and it's almost laughable (if it wasn't so painful), because you've been told there will come a moment when you will feel/say this and that's considered a good sign.

Does the same go for writing? Can it be considered a good sign? Let's hope so.

Happy Mothers Day for Sunday everyone! It'll be hard for my kids to beat last year's handmade papier-mâché soap-dish--stored in my secret box of treasures for fear it will disintegrate upon use. Hope you all receive something equally precious.


Unknown said...

This is exactly how I feel today. The only thought I can hold in my head goes something like: There is just no time for everything! I may as well give up on trying to write. Somehow, knowing that someone else (someone who actually does write!) is going through the same thing has made me feel better. Thanks!

Damon Young said...

Yes, this echoes my experience.

Perhaps it's helpful to distinguish between an artist's workaday frustrations, and a more profound vocational anxiety.

If we know we're talented and committed, these gaps, weaknesses and distractions are just hiccups - we know they'll pass, and perhaps they'll enrich our work.

But if we're still unsure; if we feel like we're not an artist at all? This can be a deeply unsettling thing

The trick is not to get the two mixed up. An artist needs to know that it'll pass; that the base, urgent, seemingly physiological drive to create will flourish again.

But if we're failing, and for good reasons, we might need needs to try something else - not to be fooled by the false promise of 'potential' (which is often a euphemism for failure).

You're obviously in the first camp, Rachel. So, don't worry: it'll pass.

(Apologies for the long comment.)

Anonymous said...

I know from personal experience, with my own work, that those "I can't go on" moments are signalling a change, either a change in direction for my work or an improvement. I always take them as a sign that something has run its course and I have to evolve and change so I don't stagnate. Its a very painful time but its important to let go for a bit and let the changes occur naturally. Gardening is a fantastic outlet for the frustration because its both creative and constructive. Connecting with the earth and getting your hands dirty is a very grounding experience too and often helps to clear the mind.

Its a pretty difficult time for a lot of people. I have spoken to a few friends of mine who are having real difficulty feeling enthusiastic about their work. Its to be expected considering the dramatic events that have been taking place in the world lately.

As far as those artists whose life is a work of art, well, we only know them through their public profile. Who knows what occurs behind closed doors. I'm sure Frida Kahlo had to make the bed from time to time.

Anonymous said...

also, sorry for the long comment...

Kate Moore said...

Ah, that wouldn't have been a DF interview would it? I see Kate's discussing art and motherhood on her blog.
As for the lull, hon, I think it's called "ebb and flow".

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel - it's late and am tired, but have just had a look at your blog and love it (and of course your book selection!). And yes, I know exactly how you feel - in fact I think I spent about four years feeling just like this on my current project - mainly because i was having a huge fight with myself between what i wanted to do and what i felt I should do. Eventually I won, and am now feeling excited again! By the way, I've perused your book in several shops and think it looks wonderful - and very close to home. It's on my list for after I finish this next burst. Now time for bed.

Kate Moore said...

Oooh, thanks for that one. Will investigate later. Have bookmarked it. Ah yes, it's a tough call isn't it. A friend was involved in Sprinkla magazine down there and it didn't really get properly up and running - guess all those organic cafes can't afford the advertising. Do appreciate that, but given your comment, the mag's business plan did look sound.

Rachel Power said...

Yes, definitely--I have checked out Peppermint in our local newsagency. Gorgeously designed. An exciting venture for you, Katie, for sure!
And thanks, Damon for your vote of confidence. Think I am in a prolonged state of "unsentenceness", as Garner put it, but still operating with the assumption that I will get thoroughly sick of myself soon and be forced to put pen to paper just to get out of my own head! If I'm not writing, I turn on myself and start to self-scrutinise--very unhealthy.
And I agree, Emma, that it can sometimes be difficult for art to feel meaningful in the face of so much horror. Yes, gardening is at least one small act of generation. Rebellion, even.
On this front, everyone should check out Kate's wonderful blog, every day i plant a tree. Very inspiring.

belinda marshall said...

can totally relate! sometimes it just is too hard to keep momentum and perfect 'application' when you are working in snippets! i agree with emma. sometimes when i feel like this it's h because something is brewing subconsciously . . .

happy mother's day to you too :)

genevieve said...

Beautiful blog of Kate's there, thank you. And I am very jealous of that garden, Rachel, it's spiffing.

If you did not give voice to these things for us, though, we would all go on thinking we are the only ones.
(I am startled by recognising myself in that remark about self-scrutiny there. Yet again...)
The vocational anxiety is a pretty huge one - there is so much of this writing gig that is long term investment, it's very hard to see where returns (not just material ones) are sometimes.

Going to call a cleaner!! stuff it.
Thanks for your fine words once more.

Rachel Power said...

Thanks for that Genevieve. Makes me feel much better. I would love a cleaner but my house is so cluttered and run-down I think I'd feel too sorry for them! But I say go for it if you can!! I have friends whose cleaners are their saviours.

genevieve said...

Oh, don't worry, mine is cluttered etc as well. HEH.
I have periods where I want people OUT of my house, and I enjoy that serenity for a bit - and then I have to reluctantly call them back again, or else I really do disappear.
And I wish I gardened more...

Red Hen (dette) said...

Oh boy I can relate to this too! I just said to a friend yesterday..."I just can't get my groove on". It would be so nice to have a couple of aspects of my life running smoothly concurrently! My house is beyond cluttered at present- having lost my cleaning lady and sharing the house with two teenaged children who would rather do homework than housework...I've felt like I'm barely treading water and completely devoid of any creative spark!

home girl said...

it must be so hard to keep everything balanced when your professional life is peaking and the kids are still so young. i imagine it would be very easy to lose your mojo ocassionally and feel the need take stock. i got my first big inspiration to make some art a couple of days ago - got into a panic thinking that i absoloutely must show some new work before i have this baby (haven't showed work in 4 years!)hope i can ride this wave and make it happen. also hope you get re-inspired soon - i rekkon the garden is a fab place to start - yours is looking gorgeous

rochelle at PITH + VIGOR said...

I clicked through to you blog and saw the peacocks and immediatly was drawn in...love the peacocks...they mean alot to me too.

Anonymous said...

Pre-baby I used to use time when I was cooking or cleaning up to think through my creative or academic problems. I got good at doing the two at once, and it was the only way I got to have life and art in the same lifetime.

Now I do housework and cooking with someone who wants my full attention, and wants to help, and will probably pour Milo all over the floor if I get distracted, so when he goes to bed, and it's quiet, and the housework is all done, instead of getting straight into my creative work, I find I'm still at the just working it out stage. When my son was smaller I had some paid work out of the house, and the joy of walking to and from work three days a week by myself made all the effort worthwhile.

D said...

Nice snap shot of your mind and garden.
ps. I got an ipod and have found this:
http://librivox.org/newcatalog/search.php?title=&author=&status=complete&action=Search which can be great company for busy types who need more on the ipod than tunes and busy podcasts. All stories are FREE (mostly classics) because they're public domain.

I listened to an old Italian story today. I walked all the way home with my hands held behind my back taking the slowest most measured paces. It was wonderful. I'm low on reading and scribbling time at the mo (school holidays) and I think this site and my mother's day ipod, in combination, have become a little ray of literary sunshine.

D said...

pss: nice comment Damon. Y'gotta love that!