(re-released from July 13th, 2014...)
Lately, I have felt like The Hanged Man from the tarot deck. Suspension, yielding, sacrifice.
I have been in the process of moving…for a couple of months. Our family is half-packed but our next home is not quite ready for our arrival. We started by packing things that weren’t very necessary; things like extra linens, books, and art supplies (I know, crazy-thinking).
Here has been my dilemma: to go unpack the art supplies and start on my ideas, or put off the creative urge a wee bit longer…
I know you’ve experienced precarious times too, times when things seem to be in a constant state of flux, and the activities that normally feed you seem nowhere in sight. This state of creative suspension has been a precarious time for me and it started when my mother became ill with cancer a year ago. I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on art (or didn’t want to focus on it is more accurate), so I unquestionably set it aside for the time being.
I don’t know what you are going through, but I know it’s not easy. Transition requires courage, foresight, and often sacrifices to make it through to the other side. We know life is impermanent, but certain times have a heightened sense of impermanence and being present can be especially challenging, not to mention being creative. Making art feeds our spiritual life as well, which means that times of change and struggle can be soul-sucking and downright depressing.
*If you don’t identify as an artist keep reading, because as you might gather, this can be applicable for other areas of your life.
How does an artist survive in precarious times? Here’s my what-to-do list for the artist’s soul. Try at least one thing to keep the inner fires burning. There are many ways to be artful. I trust you will find a way that works for you.
1) Visit other people’s art.
Go to museums and galleries, classrooms, and visit public art. Take it in. Receive. Try to put yourself in the artist’s shoes. Think about how you might have done the piece differently. It’s highly likely that you’ll walk away with a new perspective on your own art. Thankfully, art is everywhere!
2) Think Small.
That’s right, ditch the BIG IDEAS. Create small, create quickly. Bite-sized projects are great because they are realized in a short amount of time. Postcards, Zentangle, a poem on the fly (write it down), or modeling clay. Small, easy creations might even take you into working with new materials and modalities that once seemed elementary. Hello, cut and paste! This is also great time to help younger artists explore.
3) Plan your next move.
Take small steps towards your next big idea. Collect items and supplies you will need (careful not to hoard. ;-)). Keep documentation of all the ideas you will act on as soon as it becomes feasible. Visit these ideas often! Make them visible. I tend to forget things that are not urgent. I have an inspiration board on my closet door so I can remember all the important, life-giving things I love to do. I’m not sure how one forgets this, but it happens.
4) Talk to other artists.
Initiate conversations; ask questions about their process and materials. What drives them? Hearing how passionate others are allows us to live vicariously through them, if only for a moment, and that is okay. Most artists are happy to share their experiences and it feels good to be heard by another person who understands the value of creativity. I can tell you, these encounters are sweetly memorable
5) Take good care.
This might sound impossible; after all, we’re talking precarious times, right? Making time for yourself can be short, sweet, and simple. Quality over quantity. Close your eyes and breathe, go barefoot and earth outside in the morning sun, enjoy a soak. Rest. Eat nourishing, yummy foods. Basically, do whatever it is that you already do for yourself that is nourishing because that will be the easiest thing for you to integrate right now.
Julia Cameron, author of the The Artist’s Way, recommends artist dates, which is essentially a date with yourself. If you can manage this, it will help you immensely with number 6.
6) Just make the damn art!
You probably thought there was an easier way around this--I did! But there isn’t. At some point in the waiting game, you got to decide that now is the right time and take action. No, it’s not ideal. There are distractions--often well-meaning-but-curious kids--and the lighting is shitty. Artists are resilient, if nothing else. You’ll find a way and you’ll be so proud of yourself for being unstoppable.
So go ahead, make a mess, enjoy yourself, and be forgiving of the circumstances. You may not be able to do this on a regular basis until there is more stability in your life, but at least you showed up.
Like life, art requires that you show up. It doesn’t require perfection, a business plan, or a studio. It does, however, require SPACE.
As creative human beings, we have the ability to GENERATE and carve out space for creative expression, for our self, in our precarious times.
Art finds a way.