“…and doing whatever is necessary to achieve and sustain a creative life” This is one of Tarcher’s (1999) principles for creators, the others being hushing the mind (yeh right), holding the intention to create, making creative choices, honouring the creative process, befriending one’s creative work, evaluating ones work and doing whatever is necessary….
Hushing your mind is a funny one…there is rarely hush inside my cranium and I know it’s not practical to try and achieve (I have “learnt” about Mindfulness and have realised that it’s not about achieving quiet for me, but sufficiently ignoring the hustle and bustle that inevitably occurs (Lynne Francis runs Mindfulness and Creativity workshops if you are interested)
But “doing whatever is necessary to achieve and sustain a creative life” gives me rather a few more challenges. This isn’t going to turn into a rant about how hard it is for a woman to create, especially a mother, but there are many choices that we have to make if we want a creative life.
Firstly, what does “a creative life“ mean. I remember chatting to a comedian and when we first met, he asked what I did and amongst my list of “job roles” I said I am also an artist. He’s a lovely man, but immediately sneered “a real artist or just someone that paints occasionally”. This hit one of my buttons. I don’t want to be seen as a half hearted painter. Ideally I would immerse myself in creating and making work, surfacing just to eat and pee, but that doesn’t do many people a world of good. I think there is a myth that’s been created: the image of the artist who is isolated, completely focussed on creating, living of scraps (!), a bit mad, but obviously so worthy as they sacrifice other stuff for their art.
I have some evidence of this kind of “doing whatever is necessary” working. I have a very old friend who is a successful writer. He started writing in earnest after leaving university, working on a tome “Decipher” which would become a best seller. During this time he was also writing a film which also became a Hollywood blockbuster. He was doing all this whilst in his twenties. He worked at a local off license and wrote. I rarely saw him. Whilst we were all busy socialising, dating, trying different jobs, travelling, having babies… and doing those things you do in your twenties, Stel was writing. Hauled up in his shared flat, dedicated and focussed with a crystal clear vision. He seemed to be doing whatever was necessary…
I can’t do that. I possibly could have made different choices in my early twenties, dumped my soul mate and been more dedicated to painting but now with a family, and income responsibilities, I genuinely can’t do “whatever is necessary”. Not now, not after I have set up certain roles and expectations within my household e.g. a certain level of cleanliness (not that bothered personally but my partner and children are!) a certain standard of food provision (not that good, but it’s always down to me to provide) a reasonable level of engagement with my children….support with learning and homework (but I draw the line at spellings which are just so boring) a “job” which requires more than just turning up 18 hours a week and getting paid each month.
So this gives me some further pondering:
– Who decides what a creative life is? I sit somewhere on a continuum from people who say they are creative, but don’t create. Through people that have a creative hobby or attend a class. Through to my lovely friend Sophie who is a staggering portraitist and mum painting when she can. To the extreme end where I imagine the famous and successful artists sit… those who seclude themselves most of the time and do do “whatever is necessary”.
– Can I really make some choices that ensure I can sustain a creative life?
– Will the time and space that I carve out, ever be enough for me?
So I have a list (we like lists don’t we) of things which I will do and won’t do, to achieve and sustain my creative life:
– I won’t spend time watching ”mind numbing, spirit crushing TV” I’ll just watch one or two programmes a week that are really funny, nurturing or interesting
– I won’t wait until my kids are in bed and asleep before I go into the studio – I’ll make a start before.
– I’ll be more like my husband. He has his hobbies, he books stuff and just goes and does it.
– I’ll find another studio space before my youngest figures out that she has the box room, so I can have the big spare room as a studio. I won’t sabotage my creative life, by just giving up my space without a plan!
– I know that having some deadlines and reasons for creating help…I’ll makes some
– I will consciously keep stocks of ready meals and easy food in the house. The stress is just not worth it!
– I’ll always have something in the diary carved out for me to create, whether it’s a day marked off in the diary or signing up to a drawing day….just something
Not quite the life that Van Gogh led is it! but I have at least had 3 more years of life so far, than he had. I have food, warmth and a lovely (if not longsuffering family) and I will do what is needed to continue to create somehow……