Tag: priorities

ow

Last Saturday, I hurt my back.  For the past few days, I managed to either ignore the pain or work through it.  Unfortunately, denial did not endure forever.  Last night, I barely managed to function as a human being – I was reduced to tears loading the kiln – and today I have not wanted to push it too far. Standing in the studio, I looked at the filthy floor so desperately in need of cleaning, the list of things that need to be thrown immediately, the other kiln that needs to be loaded. I knew better than to attempt any of it, lest I be in this state for many more days. So, after I did what I absolutely had to – cleaning the work table for tonight’s event – I came upstairs to write.

As soon as I could coax my back into a more comfortable position, the world became a better place.  The book is treating me well, flowing quickly, and I am grateful.  The only catch has been my frustration over not doing what I feel like I should be doing. Shoulds and oughts can really ruin a moment if I let them. My sense of responsibility carries a vicious whip. This seems like a cheat, really, to be writing instead of throwing.  In a sense, this is a study in patience: I have to hold myself back so I will not make my pain worse.  On another level it feels totally hedonistic, because I want to keep going with this story.

Mostly, I’m grateful that my life is structured so that I can redirect my impulse to create into what I can do at a given moment.  I can sit on the couch and throw myself into poetry, this story, and the brainstorming that will become the next story.  I am blessed and joyous…  as long as I don’t try to lift anything terribly heavy, move sharply or stand for too long.

eating elephants or moving mountains

A friend of mine works as a life coach and told me once (free advice I should have paid quite a lot for) that one cannot eat an elephant in one bite.  The elephant must be consumed in small nibbles, working methodically, until the entire beast is digested.  Now, this was understood to be a proverbial elephant, since at the time I was a vegetarian, but the analogy helped.  As we talked, my imagination met her image with another, the one I had been using for years: I felt like I was trying to move a mountain larger than Everest with a weak and rusty spoon.

Either way, no matter which picture works, I find great satisfaction in the burp after that large meal or while one rests a very weary arm from shifting that much dirt and stone.  I close in on some wonderful changes.  By the time this blog is released into the wild, I should have finished quite a few.

My website has been recoded.  On various pages, you can purchase items straight from the website itself – in particular bookmarks, prints, poem posters and some paintings.  For now, sculptures and pottery will be mostly showcased on my ebay store, better suited to rapid turn-around.  Trust me, uploading those items and the altered website was a labor of both love and frustration.  My geriatric computer did not like the task at all, and let me know it.  {Indeed at the time of this writing, I am still working on the painting section of the website!}

Other bits of elephant are less visible, but probably caused more indigestion.  Since my ‘part time’ job is website coding and some graphic design, I’ve been happy to get projects done for clients.  The book-keeping is done, with only the last bits of inventory hanging over my head as I type (but that should be done before this blog is released.)  This brings such relief to me.  However, as I looked back at entries I wrote less than a month ago, talking about looming to-do lists and the intimidation of it all, I realized today’s entry deserved to be: proof that over time, even the most distractible of people (myself) can get things done albeit slowly.

the hows and whys

i have spent the past couple of days thinking about creativity – writing in particular – and how they work in my life.  Two people have asked, because i am doing a Kickstarter Campaign on poetry, if i am going to stop throwing pottery and sculpting and painting.  The question surprised me, because i have been doing all of these all along.  As they looked at me baffled, i realized that the writing had always been somewhat invisible.  i talked about it, but i they never really witnessed it. Writing is done in private, in quiet.  However, everyone can see a set of dishes.  My pottery being in galleries lends a certain amount of legitimacy to those efforts.  Paintings and prints sell, so that i can say, do you remember that landscape of Rockland Harbor? Or the painting of two people kissing so long they’ve turned into trees? Yeah? Gone!

Writing is different. Performing a piece once doesn’t mean that it’s finished in my mind.  As i compile poetry collections for e-readers or to read before an audience, they  transform under my editing hand.  And, no matter how focused i am on other things, words normally rattle around inside of me.  A few blogs ago, i talked about waking up with a novel in my mind. My daydreams often serve to keep a story fresh in my mind when i cannot be writing.  Nearly every morning, i make up rhymes to my cats and dog, to jump start that part of my brain.  (Some people use coffee.) More than once, i have written poems giving thanks for the verses that creep into my mind during the night and at the break of dawn.

With that said, i feel like i have done nothing this past week because i have not written in the ways that i had planned.  Of course, i have blogged.  i have edited my heart out for two poetry collections that are ready to be published.  However, i spent a lot of my writing time updating my website, setting up the Kickstarter campaign and just generally feeling awful as i’m changing my relationship with food. Today i ache because i want to be wrapped up in a blanket, with fuzzy socks on, staying in my pajamas, while i write about David talking to his daughter Shan, artist to artist, about why art can matter even in the perilous circumstances that surround them.  Likewise, i have a queue of poetry, probably about ten lines intended to start poems that i could not write down the moment i thought of them, competing with prose for my attention.  As much as i love pottery – and Lord knows i need to get back to it, since i’m so far behind i can’t even see where i should be – it hurts to have to wait until tonight, when the pots are glazed and the kiln started, to get to the nuts and bolts of writing.  i know there is always a risk that i will be too tired or in too much pain at the end of the day to do what i want to do right now.  But i must put on my big girl pants and prioritize even if the pants can chafe.

There are days and maybe even weeks when i have been so overloaded with other tasks that writing hibernates.

If i allow this to go on too long, i’ll start feeling odd.  My mind compulsively churns fiction.  Already, i’m back to the stage where it’s leaking out of me, without putting pen to paper, i’m still hashing out dialogue and plots, asking the dog and cats for their opinion.  The cat’s eyes twitch at the amount of rhymes sent in her general direction.

The written word keeps me sane.  It ensures that it gets time around all the other artistic work.  If i were slightly less ADD, i could probably sit and write 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, but i need movement in my creating too.  i can need art to be something physical, three dimensional, dripping in colors. i have no real fear of any side of my artistic endeavors disappearing – although i consistently find one has to take a priority over another (or my health over all of them) for short spurts.

Yesterday, i felt amazingly alone and forlorn.  In the midst of my self-pity, i realized that i live better without people than i do without writing.  Feeling friendless (i say feeling, because i know such things are an illusion of melancholy) can strike me as less scary than feeling like poetry has abandoned me.

i write in nearly every moment when i cannot throw or sculpt or paint – and when the creative spirit within me allows me to do nothing else.  i write because it makes me whole and sane and gives me the greatest joy i have known (even, or rather especially, when it’s been the hardest work).

And tonight, i will write as a reward for doing the heavy lifting of pottery.

 

overwhelm

a poem about writingi love making art.  However, the rest of this business that i run can turn on me quickly.  Sometimes even progress feels terrifying.

While i am ecstatic that the poetry collection is finally edited, the thought of publishing it can make my bones tremble.  Likewise, making more money than i ever have at a gallery for a four week period fills me with elation – until i realize i have to throw even more to continue making progress at the same pace. For any of this to work in the long run, i have goals i need to meet and no way to guarantee that my work continues selling. Granted the increased sales mean that i have money for clay and glaze, but throwing and glazing can take a lot out of me.

Many people give me wonderful advice, and if you are an artist, i am sure you have heard similar things. Frankly, you have probably been inundated with similar suggestions no matter what type of business you run: leads to follow up on, places to advertise, the kinds of products you should make instead of the ones you do.  Much of what i have been told was wise and wonderful; if i could do it all i would.  Only, it’s not often possible for me to do ten thousand things in one day.  The work load that i create for myself making my art and running the business surrounding it leaves me constantly overextended.  As long as my health holds out, although that for me is always a relative concept, i can manage.  Adding something new and huge can destabilize the whole system. Last year my entire life got shifted by lightening striking a kiln.  Recuperating from that took nearly nine months.a poem about hope

This week has been one for profound back pain.  Standing, much less throwing or painting, has been a challenge.  Walking to bring in the “Pottery and Art Ahead” signs (200 yards or so both North and South of the Pottery, Art and Writing Studio + Showroom entrance) made me want to cry a little.

Episodes like this always add to the sense of panic. Pain on its own can be daunting.  Also, i suspect being a moody artist makes the whole situation a little more intense. It takes a lot of discipline to keep my heart from failing. i have to go through the list of things that have been done rather than obsessing on my endless to-do list. From that perspective, i have had a good week. Book-keeping and advertisements have been finished.  i have managed to fire three kilns, i have glazed a lot of pottery with more to come Friday.  Much poetry has flowed from my pen and i am excited about my novels – newborn, in progress and finished – in a way i wasn’t a few weeks ago when pottery dominated all of my existence.  Perhaps it is the gift of fall: the recognition that i will soon have more time for writing.  Still the things i need to do and the things i want to do loom over me.

As a result, i spent a lot of time today perched on the edge of overwhelm.  i tried to work through it, but no matter what i got done, i didn’t feel like it was enough.  Except, right before i left the studio, i unloaded the kiln and took out these bowls…

blue, black and white bowls… and now everything seems possible again.  It’s amazing what a few bits of good art can do for the soul.