Earlier this week, I had a conversation with my best pal in which he asked me why I can’t put the hours I spend on writing my blog into working on my art.
To which I had a few replies:
The first is that I have been trying this over the last year (minus my latest few weeks of entries) and it has left me in a state of flux.
My best mode of practice has always been – find what you want to do and do it until you get asked to do it for someone else. Say yes to opportunities, especially when they scare the sh*t out of you and then make them happen. I have had so many mind-blowing experiences based on this principle - most of them having come about simply from being in the right place at the right time, doing my thing. Saying yes has meant more opportunities than ever, but for someone like me who has a lot of different skills, this has meant at times spreading myself a bit thin and losing myself in some kind of mad artistic sprint to a finish line I’ve never been able to define.
For those of you who’ve ever wondered about the necessary components to thrive creatively; they don’t include fear-induced bouts of art-making or denying yourself permission to rest or take breaks. I know artistic stereotypes say otherwise. I will say it now – I refuse to believe any practicing artist ever wrote themselves these guidelines when they laid out their prerequisites for success.
Because of this, I find writing to be a rudimentary principle. I write in order to clear the debris that comes with the work and to check in with the person I want to be - underneath all the hype and the shows - because when I get busy, these are some of the first things that slip down my priority list.
Maybe there are some artists out there who don’t need to write a small essay every week in order to check in with themselves – or those who consider the making of art itself to be checking in - but this is not me. I have had bouts of seven-day workweeks solely devoted to my art and music practices - with no room for public posts or pondering why I continue to create tiny worlds out of paper - but I found these periods burnt me out big time.
With the rush of chasing and nailing new projects and opportunities comes the worry of the ever-present question.
“Can I do this?”
I don’t know if I can do this.
Yes. We’re doing it.
Progressing in your chosen field often feels exactly like that to me. Doing things you didn’t think were possible and then moving on to other seemingly insurmountable goals is one of the most exhilarating processes I have ever experienced.
I jumped out of a plane earlier this year and I still felt more of a rush from the work I have been involved in as an artist.
A deadline is that indefinable finish line I mentioned earlier.
Taking on commissions that draw me out of my depth; getting onstage and performing with my band; saying yes to being part of a notable exhibition;
these make me sweat to deliver.
When you’ve got no fallback, everything you’re pouring yourself into seems to rest on that one performance or that one exhibition - because the alternative is a plane ticket home to start from square one. Skydiving’s got nothing on that.
When I used to contract as my only source of income, I often thought about my freelance lifestyle versus finding a job working for a larger agency as the difference between flying a small monoplane versus being a passenger in a Boeing 737 airliner.
When you hit turbulence it can be the scariest thing in the world and it’s your responsibility alone to keep the thing going, but the rewards when you’re flying solo are so much greater than when you’re sitting in a passenger seat.
I used to replay this analogy over and over in my head whenever things got tough and I considered taking ‘non-creative income’.
Now thinking back on this attitude I would say without hesitation that I was wrong.
Now I’d say working for a larger company is more like being a crew member on a sailing ship. No-one gets a free ride but if everyone onboard is doing their job and pulling their weight, there is give and take. If one person falls down, hopefully there is someone to help them up and keep the ship running smoothly The benefits of this are mutual.
So back to finding my centre. I’m sure I had it here somewhere…
I am currently living my dreams of being an artist and helping teenagers to express themselves creatively. Back in 2009 during my study in fine arts I had a dream to provide a safe haven for teenagers to make art in Romania – please don’t ask me why.
What matters is that my dreams hit reality and I’ve ended up running an art program once a week, in which a class of about twelve students turn up to my room on a Friday afternoon. We listen to music and work on creative projects in an environment that wouldn’t be the same if I failed to check in with myself.
So there we are. There are more stories I could share with you on the subject of finding one’s centre, but I’ll save them for another day.
For now, I resolve to make sure that when I’m taking on new opportunities, I’m also taking the time to consult my own manual. Because let’s be realistic – No-one ever flew a plane without knowing where they were going.