Todd Gibson has a well timed (for me) guest post over at Modern Art Notes on the nature of the creative side life. It comes on the heels of a recent discussion with a friend about William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens which are aptly highlighted in Todd's post! I hadn't even thought about WCW in years and now two mentions in one week. Funny that internet thing.
To quote Todd:
How did Stevens and Williams find the strategies they needed to feed and sustain their craft in the midst of their demanding professional lives?Stevens and Williams did change the course of American poetry and the circumstances from which they did it is incredible - from the very bowels of employment - the daily grind, the ordinary life. They do really bust the myth of self-destructive creativity. I'm amazed by the strength of their accomplishments. In other words they were like the vast majority of artists. Regular working people with an open eye for something other.
I'm not trying to mythologize the working artist because as we all know mediocrity reigns within the ranks as much as anywhere else but I too find myself fascinated by the ability to negotiate both spheres and succeed creatively at a very deep level. Not only straddle divergent careers in turns of output, but to continue to have growth while spending the majority of your time in the service of others. Giving 40-50 hours of your week is no small commitment to someone who has no vested interest in your creative life cycle. That fact alone feels numbing to me on a regular basis and adds a vicious level of stress to an already stormy sea. And what of the common demons of self doubt which can multiple out of nowhere for a myriad of reasons and perceptions (both true and false) ?
It is hard say what one does to continue on. I look back over the years and still feel amazed that I'm still pushing paint around on nearly a daily basis. Still trying to figure "it" out, looking for the next idea in a long line of claimed and aborted ideas, millions to be sure. It isn't therapy, it isn't religion, and it certainly isn't about expressing myself. There are no cheering crowds for the visual artist, no signing bonus or world tour. There is the solitude of work peppered by sporadic openings with some interesting people and some not so interesting people sipping free drinks and feeling both entitled or awkward.
It is a strange field to inhabit and if one is constantly pulled by "opposing" career paths how does that affect the work you make? Do you go deeper because you have to in order to survive or do you skim the surface always wondering what it might have been if you had had "more time"? I wonder if these poets felt that tug that perceived loss which quickly to turn to a conflation of rage and fatigue.
Primarily you are drawn the experience of the creating. All the moments that only you encounter. The rough patches, the easy passages, the accidents and the endless questions about resolution. Those belong to you and no one else. I think that teaches one to persevere through the work world situation. It doesn't make it any easier, but there is a lesson about acquisition and loss when you create. That means something I think. That sticks and keeps you coming back for more.
So like Todd, I'm left with a big question - and a personal one - why this life? this path?
Is this some idea of love?
tip: Deborah Fisher