12 February 2010

A Creative Life

As I child I drew pictures constantly and wrote many, many stories. I wanted to be a cartoonist, which evolved into wanting to be a studio artist when I was deciding what my major might be in college. But I also wrote a lot of poetry and fell in love with books, and I ended up an English major who dabbled in the fine arts.

Now I have this ongoing conversation with myself about my creative pursuits -- what I want to do and how on earth I plan to do it. It's not easy. The work set before me includes taking care of Lily and Adam and our home, but I also feel strongly pulled to write and take photographs and fill my life with beautiful things.

What I struggle with is how to do it all. I'm aware that I already do a lot more than most, especially new moms. Taking care of a baby is a lot of work, even when you have an easy baby like Lily. But I'm troubled by this need to channel my creativity into something tangible.

At times I wish I could give it all up, but like Madeleine L'Engle writes in Walking On Water, "an artist is someone who cannot rest" (p. 10). L'Engle echoes the ideas in Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk about creativity, which I wrote about for the Curator. They both affirm that you must do your work and do it daily, and if you do eventually the work will come together as it should:
We must work every day, whether we feel like it or not; otherwise when it comes time to get out of the way and listen to the work, we will not be able to heed it. (p. 18)
Still, being a new mom doesn't afford me time for daily work on my art, whatever it might be (except the 365 project, which only requires about five minutes of any given day). So I struggle on. Thankfully, I came across the following list, part of the Artist's Survival Kit, and find in it the encouragement to keep going (particularly because I struggle with #1 and 10).

So tell me, how do you grapple with being an artist?


Laura Leigh Dobson said...

i like this. . .really good thoughts.

as an artist is struggle with laziness. . . i feel a constant need to play, practice, write music but then there are many many days when i don't touch my art at all. . .then the cycle starts of guilt, laziness. . . then i think i'm worthless, not really an artist. i'm only satisfied when i'm creating. . but to get out of the cycle of guilt and lazines, and worthlessness.

kristyn said...

That is a lovely picture. Out of curiosity, do you fill that notebook with thoughts, your own poems, quotes from books, something else? I just love the handwriting and how it looks on the page.

I struggle with #10, too. I seem to get frustrated with myself weekly for not having accomplished X, then create a giant and intricate plan to do Y, and expect to see progress in two seconds.

I think the quote you posted says it all. I've been thinking a lot lately about the Aristotle quote: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

It seems like all a person can do is cultivate the creative habit and trust where that leads. But it's hard for me to be satisfied with that because I like to see progress.

As far as I can tell right now, I think an artist must strike a balance between working daily on his or her art and striving to achieve set goals.

Lindsay said...

Laura, I know about laziness. I think I'm extremely prone to it (I spent the first half of my life parked in front of the TV -- no lie), so I overcompensate by doing too much. But laziness shouldn't be confused with time to rest, which is vital for all of us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Kristyn, I fill my journal with whatever comes to me. It's a lot of quotes I've found, but whatever strikes me at the moment goes in it. Thanks for the compliment on the handwriting. ;)

Balance is so important, but as you know, being at the beckon call of a little one doesn't always provide that balance. That's where I get tripped up -- finding the balance in motherhood and doing all the things that make me a (semi)sane human being.

I saw that you wrote something similar on your blog. I'm about to leave you a comment there. :)

Julie said...

Hi Lindsey - I'm Julie, from over at 52/52, and just wanted to say and how much I enjoy your blog. This post, especially, really rings true for me (and I remember reading that great piece of yours from the Curator).

I think a lot about the creative life and the creative process -- and there are so many ways in which I struggle with this! Back when I was teaching, it was esp difficult, as I felt like I was two people flipping back and forth from a very internal, solitary act to an engaging, performative one. Then there's the art vs. work aspect of it, inspiration vs. discipline. And I have struggled a long time with the vocation vs. job aspect (I have some thoughts on that up here). Lately I've been thinking about the connection between writers & athletes, not just with the discipline but also the physical training, endurance, and health.

Anyway, I can't imagine what it must be like to balance all that plus being a mom! And it sounds like you are managing that much better than most. Thanks so much for your sharing your inspiring thoughts and photos.

Lindsay said...

Julie, I love this article you wrote. I'm glad to not be the only one wrestling with these ideas. I especially like your bravery in going against the grain in your culture and pursuing your creative art. So great!

How's your reading going?