A life in art

I’m still flying on the sense of accomplishment from finishing the current draft of The Swan Harp. I can take things in stride, I don’t get upset as easily. It always amazes me how the act of creation changes my outlook on the world.

The first year we owned the pet store, I didn’t have time to do any art, and I suffered from painful physical withdrawal. I cried every day on the way in to work. When eventually I negotiated time to get back to art, even a little, my mental health improved incredibly. When I’m in the studio, or working on a story, everything is better. Actually finishing a major project floods my system with more endorphins than a pound of Godiva chocolate.

People say, “ooh, I’m going to say I knew you when” when they find out I’ve written a novel. They imagine my life as exotic and exciting. Well, perhaps it is. For weeks now I’ve spent large chunks of time in a far-away place among people who take the transformation of humans to swans as a matter of fact. I’ve been living a double life, in my own world and in Kiar’s.

I’ve been living a double life almost all my life. Art does that to you, takes you away from here-and-now, while at the same time rooting you firmly in the present. When you’re deeply involved in a work of art, there is only here and now, even though they might be a different “here” and a different “now”. (This is, I suppose, the origin of the observation, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader”.) You get sucked in and absorbed. Your life is, in a way, elongated, expanded by this absorption into another world, whether that world is made of paint or clay or words.

I know I’m very lucky to have this double life. It looks strange from the outside – or so I gather – but to me it seems absolutely normal. I’ve always told stories in my own head; I’ve frequently been woken at 3 a.m. by an impatient Muse who demands that I get up and sketch some idea out now! The first time I found out that life wasn’t like this for everyone – and I was in my thirties before it occurred to me – I wondered what other people did with their lives. How do they get that wild endorphin rush? (All right, I know at least one other way besides chocolate, but most people don’t indulge in that one in public. Also, you can make chocolate – or art – last all day.)

Anyway, I’m still flying. I expect to be flying for a few more days anyway. It’s a great payoff, and the real bonus is that this payoff comes from work that was enjoyable and absorbing and wonderful all by itself. Is this a great job, or what?

This entry was posted in Doing the Work, Out in the World and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A life in art

  1. May your wings carry you to the stars and beyond. 🙂

  2. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader”

    Do you know the source of that saying? I love it. I always thought, “You must be pretty stuck on yourself,” if my writing made me cry. I always thought that was good, but was afraid to believe it. Hmm.


  3. ecreith says:

    Robert Frost said it.
    I suppose “you’re pretty stuck on yourself” is one thing to think, but the fact is that while you’re creating, you aren’t thinking of yourself at all. You’re somewhere far away, out of your ego, and so what touches you is not “yourself”, but this other world that you’ve created.

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