Friday, September 27, 2013

For Arts Sake

As much as I have been denying it, summer is well and truly over. The down duvet went back on the bed today. As I glimpse to the right of my counter stool I see the fire flickering in the gas fireplace that is the heat source in this "cottage" I have called home for the last few months. My bare feet are pleading for socks or slippers. Time to retire the flip flops I guess. Just as well, as my pedicure is a shameful shadow of it's summer brilliance. Must do something about that I think to myself as I reluctantly root through the closet for warmer footwear. 

When the sun is shining at this time of year I am energized, but today it is rainy and grey and cold, not unlike my mood.  Swinging back and forth all day between brief spurts of energy, I welcome the darkening sky now. It makes me feel justified in my sloth.  It was dinner time before I made the bed, wheeled in the rubbish bins and even worse, combed my hair.  It would have remained in it state of disarray had I not caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror when I went upstairs with the freshly laundered sheets to make the king-sized bed - a chore really made easier with a second set of hands. How it has been done until today.

I decided around 5 pm that the day was a wash. Prior to that, I kept thinking I would get outside, go for a brisk walk with an umbrella but the voices that were prodding me to pull myself together and face the elements were not nearly as strong as the ones that were giving me permission to take a day off from life. A sick day. Even though I am not sick. OK, a mental health day then.  It was not a complete waste of a day. I rooted through some piles of paper and mail that had accumulated the last three months, did a bit of laundry, a bit of banking, stuff like that. I did not turn the TV on, not much of a sacrifice really since I rarely do. Life is about to shift again. This is my battery re-charging I convinced myself.  Amazing how we are able to justify just about anything if we try hard enough.

I was up in the night. Sleepless. Somewhat near Seattle. Instead of counting sheep, I watched a few Ted Talks on my ipad until I started to nod off again.  I tend to go for the inspirational ones. They are not kidding. Some of them really are. Problem is by the time I woke up this morning, I forgot what it was I was supposed to incorporate into my life to be happier or less stressed or more creative. Tidbits remain floating around in my sub-conscious brain surely.  Hunched down, waiting to pounce into consciousness at just the right moment. That's my hope anyway. Like the "moment of brilliance" between the first and second bottle of wine.

I did listen to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and it made me admire her even more than I did before. Her talk focused on the creative process and how creative people are somewhat marginalized in our society as being a bit crazy (I am paraphrasing here) but there is a stigma attached to artists. People in more traditional jobs and careers wonder how they do it. Aren't you afraid of failure or obscurity? What if you never succeed (referring to financial success for the most part)? She proposes that no one should be afraid to do what they were meant to do, no matter what their talent. No one ever asked her father if he was afraid to pursue his career in chemical engineering. But tell someone you are a musician or a dancer or a writer and right away the questioning begins. How will you make a living doing THAT? 

It is preposterous when you think about it really. The truth is, trying to fit into someone else's mold of who you should be is the real tragedy. It is akin to living a heterosexual life when you are really gay. I bet there are millions of closet artists out there working as accountants or lawyers or construction workers or nurses because they felt pressured by their parents or their community or society in general to comply. To put their "foolish" dreams aside and work in a "normal" job or profession.

I have been working very hard the last few years to banish this kind of thinking from my brain. Someone once said if you want to be a writer...start writing. So I did. And, I started writing this blog. It  has no real purpose. It is just an outlet for me. It is like practicing scales on the piano. (hated that as a kid), but it does make you a better piano player. The difference between playing piano scales and writing this blog are in the discipline. Scale practice requires discipline. This blog does not. I have complete freedom here. I can do it when the mood strikes. No one will care if I do it or not. Some times I even wonder myself why I bother doing it. All I know is that while I am doing it, it feels like I am being me. 

Now, if only I could get paid for being me....:)

And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that's unique. You have the ability to make art.
And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that's been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.
Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.
Make good art.
-Neil Gaiman-

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