“The hardest part of art making is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over – and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful. A piece of art is the surface expression of a life lived within productive patterns.”
“If art is about self, the widely accepted corollary is that making art is about self-expression. And it is – but that isn’t necessarily all it is. It may only be a passing feature of our times that validating a sense of whoever you are is held up as the major source of the need to make art. What gets lost in that interpretation is an older sense that art is something you do out in the world. The need to complete a relationship with something outside yourself. As the maker of art you are a custodian of something larger than yourself.
-David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art and Fear
“Art is making.”
As I quote these people, other voices come into my head of people from my past. My old friend, who always wondered why I felt the need to document my deepest feelings for people I don’t even know, quoting other people all along the way. An old flame, who lamented that I already knew what I was doing, and I didn’t need to read any more self-help books to figure myself out. A fellow blogger who, in frustration, asked me when I was going to start actually doing and stop talking about doing. Those voices still go through my head, I guess because their statements are either partially true or contributing to my deepest fears.
Despite this all, I am pushing through with my blog, after so many years. I am still reading non-fiction that helps me get somewhere, although it’s of a more specific ilk lately: making art, and even more specifically: writing a novel. I am still quoting other people because I find the words of other people inspiring and thought provoking.
I had a dream this morning: I was in some sort of art class, and we were learning about making art from the actual form of the human being. I remember seeing little light beings coming out of the shell of the human form in the first part of the lesson, and we were to study those beings as subjects of our interpretive art work. After the teacher gave out very specific instructions, we all began our work. I began mine by taking two tiny figurines of soldiers and sparring them against each other in a play battle. I guess it was some kind of performance art. I thought I totally had the right idea, but my teacher informed me that I didn’t really understand the directions (or I had somehow missed the mark). She instructed me to go more to the abstract. So I began picking up halves of circular objects off the ground and assembling them together, one on top of the other, in a way that didn’t make much sense to me but started to feel that it meant something. I remember clicking the pieces together. They fit, but they didn’t make anything that made any sense to me in that moment. But I felt, somewhere inside of me, that it would make sense if I just kept going.
I write for a living. I write about security breaches, new HR policies, strategic initiatives and other topics that may or may not engage employees. I also have this blog. I can pound out a post in about 20 minutes, give or take, do a quick edit and be done with it. But to create a story….to create scenes and believable characters that take on a life of their own. That is going from my toy soldier battle to assembling those half circles together. I have always led myself to believe that my logic and pragmatism betrays my creativity. I’ve psychologically barred myself from entering that imaginative place of the yet-to-be-created story.
But drive continues to drive me, and I will overcome this one story I’ve been telling myself. The latest book I’m reading is an old book that I’ve drug around with me over the last fifteen years. It’s a very clear how-to book on writing a novel. It’s got my 25 year-old chicken scratches in it, sections that have been underlined with a felt-tip pen and then bled onto other parts of the page through some kind of moisture contact. The pages are wavy from being damp, perhaps because I took it with me when I went camping in Iowa or Costa Rica or somewhere else. The cover is completely faded from years of being in the windows of my various apartments. And here I am, reading it again.
I’ve wanted to write a book my entire adult life. And I will. It may not great. It may not even be good. But I’m going to write a story.
I conclude with Alan Watts:
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so simple and so obvious. And yet, everyone rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”
I agree with Alan, and I don’t agree with him. Life is fun partially because achieving something feels like exploring a new world, and I’m a curious human being.