We are now in quarantine and I wrote this a while ago. I just re-read it. I think I never posted it before because it might be cheesy and it is stuff I actually think; which I never share! Ha! Anyway, I figured I’d share it now cause it’s a little relevant, though I’m not suggesting this is a great time to be creative. This current despair is very acutely about this pandemic. I would say allow yourself to do what’s necessary to ease it (except drugs n alcohol). Hope you’re o.k.
Here is what I have been thinking; like I said the void is part of the process of creating a life for yourself and the void is especially potent for those of us creating a life in the arts because we are often left with unstructured time. As we all know unstructured time can make a person crazy. Not only can it make you crazy it can make you feel like you are failing and that you are not good at the thing that you are very likely great at. Just because you are not being asked to do it every waking moment, doesn’t mean you’re not doing it right. Unstructured time is a big part of the creation of an artists life. I am not suggesting that every artist should only work part time or not have a day job at all. I think you can have a good-paying, insurance providing, 40 hour a week ‘day’ job and still be fully dedicated to making a life as an artist. We all have different needs and different life circumstances. I am lucky enough to have a partner to split rent and I have worked hard to have very few bills and to have work that pays me decently enough to only work my “day” job a couple of days a week. Getting back to unstructured time, if you think about it, unstructured time is the physical manifestation of the “void” feeling. There you are on a Tuesday at 2:30pm just sitting at home, while most hard working adults are at their job earning a living, socializing with colleagues, making after work plans. And here you are at home all alone trying to figure out how to be a great artist. Let’s assume you have done your search for work in your field, you have read the necessary book or essay on craft, you have tuned your instrument, whatever it may be, you’ve done all the stuff that is required of you to hone your art. Now what?
Well this is why this time is so valuable, this is where you craft yourself as an artist. This is the time and the place where You the Artist is formed. This is when you strengthen the muscles that are harder to reach, and develop that which separates you from everyone else. And I do not mean that these things separate you because no one else is developing these muscles; I really hope they are. What I mean is that every one responds to this type of stress a little differently. You will learn the tools that you need in order to keep yourself sane and hopeful during these difficult times. These tools that you build will walk in the room with you when you have that audition or pitch meeting and you captivate them. They won’t be able to name what it is they see in you but they will see it. And that kind of thing can only be forged in the void.
The other thing I mentioned before was that you will use your imagination to create something that will exist in this void. That thing you are creating is often your vision for yourself, your vision for your work and your career. I don’t mean a five year plan (though a five-year plan is a perfectly useful tool). I mean your vision for who you are now and where you can grow and where you can expand and where you can be kinder, gentler, more honest, take more risks, become more you. This is a vision that requires faith and imagination. This vision is important for your career and you must guard it because many, who are not in the arts, will not understand it and they will try to poke holes in your vision. Many in the arts will feel jealous of your vision so they will sow doubt or be dismissive. These people shouldn’t be hated or insulted, it just means you can’t share your vision with them. This is because they have not worked on their vision enough. They have not sat with the void long enough to have seen their vision. They have not done their work diligently enough to have created a little patch of land for themselves to stand on. A patch of land built out of failures and triumphs and attempts and hopes and questions and tears. This is a place made of you and when you have built it, even just the beginnings of it you’ll know you are safe.
Things I recommend:
Dept. of Speculation By Jenny Offill- It’s poetic, funny and it conveys deep truths without saying them.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan- It’s a great read for quarantine; it’s long, takes place in another era. It’s rich in detail, big in scope and sexy.
Broadchurch- Netflix- Hearing David Tennant talk is worth it.
MY BRILLIANT FRIEND!!!!- If you have not read this book series do so now! Thankfully the t.v. series is miraculously worthy of the book.