"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Being an artist : Joy or Pain ?

A post written by Disco Mermaid's Robin reminded me of another post I had started writing and saved - it was that mad time in July when I was being a mom 24/7 - and sure enough, here it is, in my draft box :

I'm reading books on the process of writing, at the moment. About three at the same time. That way, I can follow the kids moving around the house - and they move fast - and not have to worry about where I left the book. One in the bedroom, one in my office, one on the table in the dining/living room, always readily available. I thought I'd quote some of the thoughts I found interesting.

Art and Fear, Observations on The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland

"Often the work we have not done seems more real in our minds that the pieces we have completed."

That phrase certainly hit home. How easy it is to forget the thousands and thousands of words and phrases that we crafted, the drafts, the stories unfinished, to only remember the few pieces that are deemed good enough for submission, and to despair, to think it's not enough. But every single word written, whether it belongs to a completed story or not, participates in our process as writers.

The second chapter's title is the same as the book, and begins with a quote by Stephen DeStaebler.

"Artists don't get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of NOT working."

Jane Yolen would probably disagree (Take Joy) and yet, I think both approaches are true. My biggest challenge is to start ! To actually sit down at the computer to work on my writing, rather than finding every possible excuse to procrastinate - like this blog ? That's the painful part for me. Once I actually start working, I forget the time, I forget the world, I can even forget my family - well, not quite, but almost. And even though it's work, that work does give me joy. What's painful is the guilt I feel, the unease, the judgemental voice I hear in my mind, telling me that I ought to make time, I ought to organize myself better, I ought to write. I think that what Stephen DeStaebler means is that when the voice becomes strident, forceful, unbearable, the artist has no choice but to get down to work.

What I can add, after having been almost totally disconnected from the writing world for a few weeks, is that it's easy for everyday life to take over - especially when there are little children around, but not only - and muffle the voice of the writer. Which is probably why all books and quotes I've read about the creative process seem to agree on at least two things : the famous butt on chair rule - write everyday, no matter what, even if it's only for ten minutes - and find time to "being" as opposed to "doing" in order to reflect, to meditate if you are into that, or just do nothing, walk and look at the world, at the trees, the sky, whatever, the goal being to connect with our inner self, where creativity - our whimsical muse - is seating, waiting, or coquettishly playing hard to get.

Well, now that I know what to do, guess I just have to do it, right ?


Rilla said...

Right! Spoken from the chair of the BLUE BUM... that shipment of bum glue I picked up at the conference in LA was so good... it made my bum blue... only problem... my garden is VERY GREEN...too green... read...weed-ridden... and my bathroom is too pink... read mold-ridden and my cats are too...no... I'm kidding... I do look after the cats and they look after me. But now... girlee... it's time to get that next book published and I'm on my way to Hyderabad with what's left of the bum glue for you... ;0

Katia said...

Yeah, do bring that bum glue with you. I can prepare a chair for you, too :)

Greg said...

I hear you on trying to write with children under foot. Butt to chair, butt to chair...gotta remember that. Greg

Katia said...

Thanks, Greg, for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I returned the courtesy and discovered your series. Sounds fun. And yes, being a parent AND a writer is not easy. Happy writing and parenting to us, and nice "meeting" you.

Natalie said...

Your post resonated with me, Katia--with three young children, my writing routine goes something like this:
1. Butt-in-Chair (2 minutes)
2. Butt-Jumps-Out-of-Chair when loud crash is heard from the children's room (2 seconds)
3. Run into room to discover that loud crash was produced by the Barbie swimming pool (filled with water, unbeknownst to me) falling from dresser to floor (girls had placed it there so little brother couldn't reach it) (3 seconds)
4. Clean up mess (20 minutes)
5. Repeat (with variations on number 3).


Katia said...

Yeah, your little routine sums things up pretty well. My problem is that by the time I reach number 5, I often find it hard to return said butt in chair. And I have the feeling that the little ones know that. It's like the phone thing. Have you ever seen children leave a mother alone when she's on the phone ???? Nope. Mom is not allowed to have a private life or to pursue private goals, lest they involve the little rascals :) Not that they would be conscious of it, of course. But that's OK. Part of life with children, and in the end, we wouldn't have it any other way, would we ? Soon, they'll be all grown up, and we'll be - or at least I'm sure that I will - be the one wondering whom they are talking to on the phone, and I'll worry because they are so keen on living their lives and where does that leave me ? Well, at least, I'll have the chair to go back to :)