Tag: inspiration

overwhelm


Apparently, this is the third time that i have written a blog that is entitled overwhelm.
i am not in the least bit shocked, as the problem recurs with some frequency.  Lately, it is made worse because of a necessary change of focus.

After nearly twenty years working as an artist and writer (although for many of them i did not have to be obsessed with making my own living) and eight working myself down to a nub running my own business, i have been holding down a regular job since last June.

That sentence still sounds surreal.  Art, i used to say, is all i am good for.  Well, it is certainly my passion and vocation, but i have discovered that i can develop other skills and learn huge amounts of information in a short period of time.  i feel an odd pride in being resilient enough to make such a fundamental change to how my life is structured.  However, a tension has developed by these two opposing forces – creativity and the need to survive – and this has lead to a new kind of overwhelm.

The longer i work at this job, and the more i enjoy it, the worse the struggle between the artistic and practical sides of my psyche grows. i work eight or ten hours to come home too exhausted to write or paint or sculpt or throw.  Indeed, my health has not been terribly good, so i have to proceed with caution. All the sick time has been used up.  This constant fatigue and struggle makes me feel like less of an artist – even though, by any reasonable standard, i am still producing a decent amount of art and verse.  Logic be damned, though, my confidence is deeply compromised.  i have become excruciatingly vulnerable to criticisms.

Suggest that i am not the artist i thought i was, and i will hang my head in shame.  Maybe i am not.  After all, i have found some unexpected delights in this job. Would a real artist have been utterly inconsolable?  Unable to find joy in other accomplishments?

she has no message, because i could not go

When my writing is dismissed as irrelevant or harmful because it deals with heavy issues and are not always sparkling with wit, i hang my head and agree.  This is not work about trivisl things.  Very few poems involve wine or puppies or butterflies.  My overriding fascination as an artist – both in visual and written mediums – is the inner workings of the soul.  What happens beneath the skin, in this soup of perception, knowledge, bias, inspiration, reaction and emotion, has been the platform from which my creativity launched.

There was a time i could swim in an ocean of story without being worried about the anything else.  i can barely remember it. Given the insanity that this country (and world) is facing right now, i feel particularly hoxed.  Not only has the wild river of art that flooded from me slowed to a tiny, warbling brook, other tasks of major importance have to be put off.  i have had to learn to say no, especially to my own desires. Last weekend, kept drawing protesters, mostly because i was too exhausted and sick to go protesting myself.

Curled up under covers, i remembered fondly attending George Mason University in the late 80s, early 90s, and going to many protests in DC.  Getting involved stokes potent hope.

Yet, i have to protect this body (as well as my mental health) first and foremost, because when i am unable both the job and the calling screech to a halt.

Too often, i find myself lamenting the art-obsessed life i used to have like one would a lover.  Oh, i remember being in the arms of flow, being ready to pick up a pen at any moment. At the same time, i am proud that no matter what has been going on with anxiety, or my health, or my bills, or that nagging cloud of despair i haven’t been able to shake since i was a child, i am surviving, working the full day, and letting poetry and sketches leak out.  Some weekends, in a burst of joy, i throw myself into larger works.

i am still an artist.  My sanity continues to be maintained by the written word and the thin ribbons of ink that pour from my pen.

But, this overwhelm brought me low and made me hide.  Forgive me for my absence.  Pardon me for the awkwardness of this writing.  i am still a bit wobbly in my feet.  Ignore the loud laughter and thanksgivings, because i am just so ridiculously grateful i made it this far.

 

 

poems creeping out

Gratitude21Today, delight burned bright as a sun.

i have rarely been this quiet within my mind – partly caused by the gentle softening of stress and partly because i am truly realizing that writing and art will survive this transition.

During breaks, after i got home, poems kept leaking out, creeping down my sleeves and spilling onto paper. The joy of it, as though it were some secret ecstasy, the greatest gift given to this lost lamb.

It makes me so very excited for tomorrow – when i can write more.

Each dawn brings makes me more confident. Perhaps, soon, i can lay down some of my burdens.  Different tenors of writings have come from me today.  All the despair has vanished, at least for now.

Very quietly, i hope and pray that the mantra that i spoke for so long, ‘i need to save myself and my art,’ will be true.

i ask again

poem: writing’s work

Months ago,
something terrifying happened:
writing became hard.

Having word follow word
no longer felt effortless.
The flow of story
would wash over me,
not with the glorious
outpouring
of a waterfall,
but like rapids –
filled with bumps and turns
and inconsistent quality
and speed.

Letters smashed artlessly
across the page.
i think they knew
i had lost faith in them.

My words must have known
that my fear
had left too many works
utterly forsaken –
story and novel
stillborn
in boxes and harddrives.

So, they moved back,
away from my greedy hands.

They became coy,
hard to follow,
even harder to press down
onto the page.

They refused to cooperate
until i promised
to do better
by them.

Tonight, line follows line,
a marvelous orgy of poem
that might be a monument
to horrible, self-absorbed drivel.

i cannot judge,
because everything i do
feels woefully inadequate –
but, my heart
has begun to beat again
just because
of this glorious
outpouring.

During a pause
in this miracle,
i open up my hands,
palms heavenward,
and sing thanksgivings
that the river
has begun flowing
again.

22 november 2015

fierceness

poem: burning advice

They break my heart.

“Do it for love.
Give up on any pretensions
of eating or paying your bills
through this labor.
You know,
these words you write
and the art you make
have no use.

“It is time to acknowledge
failure.

“You have to accept
that you cannot eat bliss.

“Your joy is irrelevant
to your debtors.
We, your friends,
are tired
of watching you struggle.
You have to realize
that your art
is just for your own benefit.

“Do it for the love of it,
in your spare time,
and give up the rest.”

i want to take their words outside
and burn them
under the full moon.
This is not helpful.
This feels astoundingly cruel.
To take away the one thing
that gives life meaning
and expect me to act
as though this wisdom
is a gift?

No.

i willingly embrace madness
when your reasonable sanity
would rob me
of my reason for living.

i become the villain,
using up resources,
failing to pay my bills,
struggling through injury and illness
only so i can make art again.

But, i have no other choice.

There are only 24 hours
in a day,
and i have so little energy,
i must be merciless
in where i put my effort.
Every moment wasted
hurts my soul.

If i do not give myself over
to the mistress of art
who has saved me so often,
there will be nothing left of me
to survive.

After they have their say,
and my tears
have exhausted themselves,
i burn their words
on the altar
of my unreasonable,
insane hope.

20 november 2015

giving myself some rights

Early this week, i was introduced to the idea that small business owners have rights – even in a highly customer-centered field like art.

As soon as that lesson penetrated the outer layers of my skull, particularly the idea that i have the right to say no to jobs or appointments or obligations – or at the very least, no not now, without any firm justification other than i felt the profound need to form the letters “n” and “o” in sequence – the course of the next few days shifted miraculously.

i am still breathing so much better than i thought i could be, unafraid to use my asthma medications since i can finally get refills.  This has lead to my enjoying better stamina than i have in years, which has lead to more physical activity and more joyful, aching soreness.  However, while breathing is a blessing beyond measure, i can testify that this is not a panacea to all problems.  i continue to have issues with coordination and confusion, i am exhausted from healing and overwhelmed with stress, duty and responsibility.  After embracing the idea that i could say no, though, i realized the world will not fall apart if i took a couple of days to be kind and gentle to myself. Indeed, given how profoundly i feel at risk of dissolution, i have a duty to myself (and my customers! and those with whom i work at cooperatives!) not to let myself fall apart.

TIMG_0286he only way to keep that from happening is kindness.

So, i gave myself some gifts and worked through the guilt surrounding my magnanimity.  For two days, in between errands and appointments, worked on art (poetry, sculpting and pen and inks.)  The busier i get, the more i have to keep in mind: art comes from a place of stillness for me.  If i do not have a certain amount of quiet solitude, i will not be as effective as an artist, much less as a human being.

i kept my involvement with email and social media to the barest of bare minimums.  While i did spend an inordinate amount of time compiling to-dos for every client and project, while nestled in warm blankets, i also was merciless about their priorities.  What had to be done at this exact moment?  What could be done by Monday?  What could be done by next Friday?

Once those choices were made, i let myself have some time to watch a couple of movies, to cuddle with the animals, to read a book, to simply sit in silence until the screaming of anxiety was not so loud.  Then the art and word began to flow.  Probably, there are people who will feel terribly let down by this blog – and maybe i shouldn’t have written out that i actually took some time to make art and rest – but, this was a huge realization for me.  Usually, i have to be in physical crisis to really take downtime.  Indeed, the drive to make art is fairly merciless, pushing me forward despite myself.  But, this morning, i feel so much calmer and more capable – and that wouldn’t have happened if i didn’t act on having the right to say no.

cognitive dissonance

I took another day off today.  I wrote, I surfed the Internet, watched Hulu, listened to the storm outside my window.  There was no great master plan behind the time off, just pure emotional and psychological need.  I woke up so low this morning, I was having to find reasons to keep moving through the day.  The inertia was crippling, and I could not make it out of the house.   The weather meant firing a kiln was out of the question, so I convinced myself fate meant for me to have another chance at rest and relaxation.

Before bed, though, I started painting.  I blacked out the canvas, letting the darkness of my mood take over.  This is what I came up with:

image

 

it it could not be more different from my mood.  Indeed, she is the sibling of another painting, the one I took off the easel because I thought my mood was too desperate to work on something that happy.

Tucked into bed, I am marveling.  I do feel soothed from the time with the paintbrush and pallet knife, and utterly mystified at the art pouring through mt at this desperate hour.  Where is the joy, and the love, and the shining brightness coming from?

lonely for poetry

IMG_3283I have been working on setting up a new online store – (check out the shop button above!) This was a good use of time when I was at a gallery, entering in products between customers.

Today, I haven’t had the ability to do much writing or computer work. Instead, I have bounced between cleaning and working with clients and trimming the last bits of two sets of dishes. Tomorrow, I hope to throw.  I have so many pots that are waiting for the intersection of time and strength to be born.

Today, though – particularly tonight after the Clayful Evening – I have been so lonely for words.  My heart aches for poems.  I think it was because I was putting up so many of my poem posters on the shop yesterday.  For each print, I retyped the poem on the work and I was returned to the moment I wrote it.  Those hard times, the darkest hours and moments of struggle, have been survived.  That actually inspired me more than I can say.  I survived, and I made beautiful things while doing it.

I wish I were writing something fluid and gorgeous right now, getting lost in the magic of words.

Oh, but I am so tired and my breathing is so bad that I haven’t had the strength to stand and make dinner.  Each time I try to poem, coughing or wheezing or sneezing interrupts me  and the lines turn into expressions of struggle and worry.  I want to write about other things – I have stories and joy and bliss hovering around inside me too, occupying the space where oxygen used to be.  Maybe tomorrow night?  I might be taking myself to lunch, after dropping off some pottery for a benefit – maybe I can make it an appointment with poetry.  I know writing will find its time, but, oh, tonight I miss poems like a lover.

finding some balance

Strange things happen with time.  I have never quite understood what causes this dynamic, if it is living by myself, or the fact that I work fairly obsessively, or if I just lose so much time when I get into the flow of creating.  But, every once in a while, when all the activity comes screeching to a halt, I realize with shock that months have passed more quickly than a breath.

The past week has been very hard indeed – the more tired and overwhelmed I have gotten, the more time seems to have slipped through my fingers.  Despair can come too easily, looking at the time stretching out behind me, the decisions that should have been different, this view can destabilize me quickly.

snowfallOn Wednesday, I started working on the book again.  Since then, I’ve been typing in poems, editing stories, working with words when the rest of me has felt too terrible to do anything else.  Suddenly, thankfully, I realized that I could find some balance even with time whizzing by me too quickly to grasp and with obligations and duties overwhelming me.  Words provide me with such comfort, with deep and abiding solace.  I love throwing and painting and sculpting, but out of all of my work, the one that can save me is writing.  I have learned this lesson again, and I am grateful.

 

a sliced up thumb

I really need to throw.  This cannot be overstated.  I have a lot of galleries and stores that need to be filled, commissions patiently waiting, and I feel like I am running very far behind indeed.  Things keep getting in the way of things.  The work that needs to be done to support the art winds up taking enough time away from the art that I start to feel deprived.  It’s a vicious cycle. I think I could create enough work for three of me, but even if I managed to clone myself, we all would want to make art so badly that each of us would be complaining about not having enough time.  We would still have things getting in the way of things – times three.

At any rate, night before last, I sliced open my thumb working in the kitchen and it kept reopening as I threw yesterday. There was much blood on the pottery – thank heavens, I was working with almost black clay so no one will know (and it will go up to 2232 degrees, so the pots will be safe.) Still, it gave me pause as I thought about throwing today.  Once the studio quieted down and I was faced with a decision about what to do, I wound up surprising myself.  Choosing to keep my thumb from reopening, and not wanting to get the cut infected (or even more gobbed up with clay than it was yesterday), I turned on my computer and have been working with words.

nowordsIt feels like I have come home during the past two hours.  The drive to write has not been as acute or overwhelming of late. Indeed, the push to submit has been pestering me more than the urge to create (I keep hearing a southern voice from my past say: “Shit or get off the pot.”)

I always tend to have more poems rush out of me when I am in despair or drowning in anxiety, and for months I have been enjoying a shocking amount of contentment even when the assorted problems and worries (many of which have made it into the blog) sprang into being.  Granted, stories have been shoving their way out of me, but even those have not always been as determined as they used to be (with the exception of one character demanding to know if he was alive or dead).  Poems, though, had hushed themselves significantly.  Fewer have been coming but the ones that have poured from my fingertips made me happier.

For the past two hours I have been going through poems – editing, pouring through a collection trying to figure out if it’s ready to be released into the wild, staring at dozens of hand-written drafts that I’ve scribbled out this year.  I have felt like myself on a deep and joyous level – aligned with the universe and content in my life.  I am a poet.  It’s almost as though I had forgotten, and my own poems reminded me.

 

Reorganizing. Again.

Every few months, everything in the living-room changes places.  It’s not as though I have the time or the money for a full redesign, although I would love to have someone paint the space for me, but even without resources, something has to shift. The urge builds for days, like I am sitting on a pea, until I have to move. It always, always involves the computer.  This technology should by all rights be in the studio, where I want to do this kind of work the most, but the dust from the clay kept getting into its workings and after three major repairs and a new screen, I decided for its health and well-being it must be in the house.

Only, I am having a hard time settling it into one specific place.  Because I rent rooms, it has to be in the living-room – the only room I have in my personal space that isn’t taken up with a bed either for myself or visitors.  Depending on where I am in my writing projects – not to mention my bookkeeping, webdesign, and graphic design work – I will want it put in the corner to block all distraction or right here, in the middle of the old mantle, so that I have as much surface material as possible at my disposal for work.  Twice I have moved the room around specifically to accommodate visitors.  At least I am well versed in putting together and pulling apart computers and all their accoutrement. Usually, the whole process takes no more than an hour.

As satisfying and energizing as it was to move the computer around tonight – knowing that I have my end of year work to do and two major website redesigns that will definitely benefit from this arrangement – I felt this wave of futility because I know by spring I will be driven by an impulse to change it all around again.  With a bit of sadness, I even predicted the specific reason.

For now, I intend to use the desk mostly as a standing desk, only resorting to an office chairs when I am too sore or uncoordinated to stand (like right now).  However, when I do this, I am almost guaranteed to have to crane my head up to see the screen. So, I already know, when I move the computer again in a few months, I will be telling myself it is purely for the safety and well-being of my neck.

But that will take months.  For now, I’m going to enjoy the new configuration of this familiar environment.