Tag: compulsion

addiction to art’s flow

IMG_1554Over the years, i have known too many people who struggled with addictions to things like cigarettes or shopping or sex or alcohol or drugs, or some combination of the above.  Watching their struggles, i felt this immense gratitude (along with waves of compassion) that i had not fallen down the same path.

Only, recently, i have realized that i did not escape the gene or the effects of environment that can foster addiction.  In a very real sense, i developed an one of my own – to getting lost in the flow of art.  When i make art, everything else disappears; my entire being seems to dissolve in the way the clay, paint, ink or story moves.  i crave this.  i demand it.  i seek it out, even if i am scribbling on a napkin.  Indeed, i will continue chasing after art even when every speck of evidence tells the sane rational people around me that this is a foolish, self-destructive path.

For the past several weeks, I have been trying very hard to redirect a portion of my effort and energy into finding more freelancing jobs, exploring other options for employment that can coexist beside my current business and obligations. Indeed, i am even preparing myself for the very real possibility that art must be put on hold for awhile, so that i can keep a roof over my head and food in my animals’ bellies. In addition IMG_1545to seeking non-art solutions, i took an amazing small business class to see how to better move through the troubling arena of selling art.  i am doing all i can to put myself in a better position.

i acknowledge that all these chores are necessary things, and good places to put my energy.  After all, financially at the very least, something has to shift quickly.   However, there is a drawback. i do this knowing that the energy to which my body has access is limited. Therefore, devoting a large portion of my effort into these areas has meant that other responsibilities and joys suffered. My dog is shamefully lacking time at the beach to romp and roam.  Except for meditation, my self-care has flown out the window.  The stress is wearing on me; i am letting everyone down while i scramble for better paying jobs and new galleries to sell my art.

As i fill out applications and take tests on my competency in different subjects (discovering that i am happily quiet competent at many tasks), i have been doing the same thing i did during graduate school and undergraduate and nearly every traditional job i have ever held: i am leaking poems and art like blood dripping from my hands.

The more i try to focus on other things, the more the art surfaces. If i swear off art even for a short period, my entire being destabilizes IMG_1547and creativity bleeds into inappropriate places and spaces.  Dialogue for plays murmurs from my lips while i am in the shower. Poetry finds itself scribbled in the margins of notes i take, just like in college.  Drawings swim around in my mind until i have to draw them – not just once, but twice or three times – in order to expunge the image.  Stories that were put aside earlier due to lack of time haunt both my waking and dreaming mind; characters shake me and demand their due.

For six days, an intense, nauseating migraine has been wreaking havoc with my brain, eyes, thoughts and coordination.  My  memory is off; my attention span, worse.  Writing, like i am doing right now, actually hurts as much from the effort of putting one letter after another as from trying to focus through enough visual distortion to make the IMG_1556whole world brighter than a sparkly Twilight vampire.  The one thing that has soothed is art: the flow of ink, experimenting with watercolor, the comfort of line and form.

Even when i am at my worst, i bleed art. If i try to pretend i am a normal person, like the adult that i imagine everyone else to be, then the bleeding becomes a hemorrhage. The compulsion to make it grows irresistible.  It wails within me, disconsolate and brutal, until i give in.  So, i feed the addiction, no longer caring if i am forgetting other things, neglecting important obligations or crumbling into dissolution.  Inside the flow of creating, nothing matters but what pours through me.

And, for that, i thank the entirety of this super-sparkly Creation, every moment, including those dripping with pain.  There are worse fates than being a hopeless artist.  This strange little addiction feeds my soul; it helps to pull me back from despair; it fuels the rest of the struggle to move through this life.

poem: creating

The compulsion has not vanished.

All yawning mouth and shining eyes,
it cries out within me,
not just during moments of idleness,
or those spent on the chorus of life,
but even while i feed it
with one form of art.

When i am a poet,
the hunger cries for clay.
While i throw,
paintings flow through my mind,
vivid and clear,
their edges dragging sharpness
across the plane of psyche.
i paint and then watch
as sculptures build themselves
in the back of my skull.
Through it all,
characters from stories
poke at me for attention,
not surrendering their cause
even though their novels
have become unmoored.

Even asleep, the need to explore
either image or tale or form
cannot take a break –
i dream what i do.

The truth of my compulsion
flows from my weary, eager hands.

Even though i collapsed in utter exhaustion,
these words continue to leak out my fingertips.

i am caught up in a river,
it flows through me in tides and torrents,
and i would not stop it if i could.

The urgency can take on calmer tones
when my soul rests in deep stillness –
indeed, it can soften to a whisper –
but the engine remains ready to turn,
to churn until all distractions are consumed.

At least a hundred times
i have asked friends and strangers,
anyone i thought could bring me answers,
why i have no lover,
no family,
why i am so unwillingly solitary
and aching with loneliness.

Tonight,
the clay, the paint,
and these lines
whisper the answer
to my overflowing heart.

8 february 2014

how hard is too hard

Tonight I was supposed to go out and break bread with other artists, but when the meeting was canceled, I continued on the path I had followed all morning and afternoon – taking it easy, editing photos, coding one website, helping another web client, adding products to Houzz, and simply taking time to rest.

Sometimes an unexpected blessing like this forces me to realize how much I need down-time and quiet. A large chunk of this evening passed me by while I napped, my cheek pressed against the pages of the book I had intended to read. When the phone rang, I was so far gone that I could not move a single muscle to answer; almost instantly upon interruption’s cessation, my thoughts wove their way back to dreams.

I know I’ve written about how shocking it is to me that I need quiet stillness beyond daily meditation before, but apparently, I am a remedial student on this subject.  When I was married, living in the city, there were enough natural distractions to keep me from going overboard.  Indeed, watching my energy get pulled in too many directions could make me agitated. That has changed.  My solitude and the business woman in me, who puts the whip to the artist’s back, conspire against fantasies like weekends.

Although, I should not blame the business. The drive to create goes very deep.  The need to work is all but irrepressible and would gladly sacrifice anything on its altar. Obviously, I cannot allow it to drive me to the point of illness and burnout.  However, I am not always intelligent about my limits.

Desperate for some balance between this compulsion and the rest of life, I have been reaching out to others like a fool – hoping that I can be given what I cannot easily provide for myself. Relationships are the one thing that will pull me away from what I ‘ought’ to be doing.  As odd as it sounds, I really enjoy being around other people even if they are not actively socializing with me.  Their noise, watching how they interact with each other, it all soothes me. Only recently, this tactic has not worked either.

Left to my own devices, I keep going until at some point, like the past two days (which are actually supposed to be ‘days off’), I collapse.  Moving the mouse has felt labor intensive.

This afternoon, waves of guilt kept assaulting me, even though I challenged their judgment with the evidence of my unsettling fatigue. ‘Look at what’s going on,’ reason told the emotion washing over me, ‘my mind has grown restless and weary.’  Just after lunch, I realized with a shock that it has been nearly two weeks since I have written anything more substantial than a blog or a poem. Once I was able to stifle the fire to write the book in favor of other deadlines, I have not stepped back into its flames. For me, that is highly irregular and a little alarming. Important and trivial things have been slipping, more so than usual. The stark realization that I have not been doing well physically feels like an excuse, but even with tonight’s rest, I know, I am still in danger. My flesh continues to ache and complain.  I must be careful.

Yet that to-do list makes me tremble, intimidating me with its glowing eyes and fear of abandonment, if I even dare to glance in its direction.

I must be kind to myself.

So, I will do some dishes (the tears of pain will help exorcize those last shreds of guilt) and then tuck myself in bed. As for this blog, I will end with a poem from my collection, ‘a seed of wild kindness,’ that feels wondrously applicable to this particular moment:darwinandandre copy

Quiet has taken over the world,
muting it in tones of gray,
softening the ground
and rocking us to sleep.
The rain caresses,
it plays lullabies,
it delays work
and encourages huddling
under blankets.

This is not a day
to move mountains
or change society –
it is a time to rest,
reach within
until the soul is opened up
to the gentleness
of creation.