Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Own Personal Abyss

The lights have been out at the Abyss since last Monday, in the name of detoxing from our constantly-connected world. I'll be honest -- I haven't been the best patient. In my defense, our detox week coincided with my attempt to buy a house (to all you homeowners out there, I don't know how you did it without going insane, but hot dang I applaud you for it), so the interwebbies became even more present then usual in my life.

That said, even just taking a break from the blog caused a real shift in my schedule and sense of availability. Writing and/or editing two to three posts a week, keeping up with Wreck This Journey, and making sure to get my collaboration sessions on with Kadie all take up significant chunks of time in my life. While its a worthwhile way to spend my time, once I add in work, household maintenance (dogs aren't going to walk themselves), and socialization (friendships aren't going to take care of themselves either), I end up feeling like there's not a lot of time left in my day. This isn't the first time we've talked about the struggle to find time for everything, but today I want to share a sneaking suspicion I've had for a while: that it just can't be done, period.

Cue Scrubs' theme song:

True story, brah.

Here's the thing: I've always thought of my creative work (writing, drawing, sewing, painting, etc.) as the thing that I do after I get everything else done. The thing that will arise out of the void created by having "nothing to do" -- my time abyss, if you will. It's why I identify so well with the definition of "abyss" that we highlight here on the blog -- the primal chaos before creation.

Here's the problem: when exactly do I find myself with nothing to do? There is always something that I could be doing -- whether it's helping out family, or grocery shopping, or joining into that super-interesting conversation on Facebook about whether the latest fan theory on Labyrinth is awesome or SUPER-awesome (and if you just missed that reference, you absolutely desperately must go rent it, or Netflix it, or stream it, or whatever the kids are doing these days. No excuses.) -- and thus my expectation that time to be creative will just show up in the form of empty, unscheduled hours on my calendar has left me with very little art produced in the two years since I stopped having to make art for grades. For that matter, even when I was in school, I still wouldn't make art outside of what was assigned. Back then, I attributed it to inspiration fatigue -- but these days, I'm not so sure.

You've probably guessed where this thought process ends up:

Is an artist still an artist if they aren't creating?

 Good golly Miss Molly, I don't have the faintest idea of how to answer that question. The short version is "Yes?" with a question mark because while I wholeheartedly believe everyone has the creative capability to be an artist, and therefore if you identify as an artist, who am I to say differently; but at the same time, being an artist is arguably choosing to make the creative processing of inputs - aka, what most people think of a "creativity" - your life's work. The long version is "Maybe . . ." followed by a long descent into rambling stress about how labels don't really help anyone anyway and how even DaVinci needed to eat, but then again, if I really was an artist, wouldn't I just feel compelled to make art all day long, everyday, and maybe I'm really just in the wrong field . . . You get the idea.

But here's the crux of the issue: instead of existing in a void where I have time to make nothing but art, at the moment I exist in an abyss devoid of art creation -- and that makes me sincerely question what the heck I think I'm doing with my life.

I'm reminded of the stories of the first trans-oceanic explorers, sailing off towards the horizon without any proof that there was going to be something waiting for them out beyond that infinite line of earth meeting sky. It takes faith to embark on such a voyage: that the water will give way to land, that the void will eventually become repopulated with something, and I'm not interested in turning back now -- but in the meantime, when it comes to art, I feel like I'm piloting a very small skiff into a vast and immeasurable darkness, where my inability (unwillingness?) to make time to create leaves me without oars or sail. That's a frightening thought.

I know, it sounds melodramatic. And in some ways it is -- there are far worse things in the world than being busy with family and friends and work and day-to-day life. But if we're going to truly change the way the creative world, and the world at large, currently does business, we have to stop only talking about the pretty, happy, pulled-together front that so many of us use to disguise how genuinely lost we are, because of some feeling that we don't 'deserve' to feel lost. That kind of pretense helps nobody.

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