Sunday, April 22, 2012

Resistance in art

If there is a one who knows self-doubt, crippling justification for apathy, or the ability to dismiss talent, it is the artist.

There is no other arena which draws as much attention as the one the artist contributes to. Whether it be in the form of music, word or paint, dance or sculpted plaster, art draws people in. Sanctuaries world wide have been set up to display art, in all of its forms, for study and enjoyment. Libraries, galleries, museums, tours, showings, arenas, albums, and workshops are set in place solely for the enjoyment of art. So why then, if an artist’s results are so sought after, so prized, so mysterious to those outside…why does the artist face doubt to such crippling degrees? Why are there painters that do not paint, poets that sit in silence, and dancers that lay immobile?

Admittedly, libraries and bookstores overwhelm me as equally as they thrill me. While I’m there, I can not help but feel the great weight of talent that has gone before. As a writer, stepping into a world filled with other writers can be daunting, and if I let it, immobilizing. It has been suggested that comparison is the thief of joy, and to a certain extent this is true. But the writer (and cartoonist, and choreographer) is faced with something much graver, much more internal than simple comparison. The artist is not battling others, the artist battles himself.

I have been reading The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, in which he discusses Resistance, the artist’s true foe. Unlike other theories, which suggest that outside forces are at work, Steven suggests that these outside forces are merely symptoms of, and slaves to, the internal struggle known as Resistance. We blame the housework, the social events, and the old-worn habits for getting in our way. Mr. Pressfield blames Resistance, the thing by which we justify distractions and delay our work. This battle can be defeated, but only if we recognize it for what it is: Our problem. The reason I have not yet penned the book I’ve been writing in my head for three years is because I have not yet penned it. It’s not because of a crappy year or a shift at the office, it is because of me. Whether or not the books I write sell or fail completely is not my concern; what’s important is only that I write them.  “The Bhagavad-Gita tells us we have a right only to our labour, not to the fruits of our labour”, Steven reminds us.

I often wonder what would happen if artists stopped defeating themselves and created with their talents instead; if they focused less on the fear and more on accomplishing the things they are afraid of. Steven writes, “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” What if this were true? It would mean I need to write, am meant to write, will do no good to anyone by not writing, failure and fears aside. And for you? What would this mean? Which act of creation most terrifies you? How long has the canvas sat empty, the paintbrushes in the drawer? How many years has it been since you stretched, moved your feet to the rhythm, felt the clay beneath your fingers, sang a note?

“The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
Steven Pressfield


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

today's showstopper

I actually need this.
Ulyana Sergeenko just stole my heart.

There are cities growing inside my chest, the cities all look like New York in the fifties, every building tall enough to touch a cloud, every automobile is a convertible, all the men wear hats and neckties, the women all have beautiful shapes of color upon them, and someone has saved a baby. There is a parade. Someone has saved all the babies. There is the biggest parade moving through my streets, the skies explode with ticker tape, strangers kiss on every corner, their kisses are what make me live forever, this is how she makes me feel. Like honey and trombones.
Like honey and trombones.
~Anis Mojgani~
from "This is how she makes me feel"


it's all in my head

I sip my coffee and delve in to this morning's tasks. Neon page markers and writing; long lists of changes and a looming afternoon. My hastily chosen outfit and madly swept up hair feel out of place, as if I'm not at home in my own body. I sit here and shuffle a stack of paper, listen to the clicking keys, and it hits me; I feel...alone. I actually feel it.

It was Buddha who stated, "Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.” But then, one might speculate whether Buddha was referring to people or trees. As I write this, I can not help but wonder if I was made for the latter: quiet forests, solitude, and oneness. I do like people, and even crave the company on occasion. But in truth I'm not that good at keeping up. Somehow, I always feel a little bit out of step, even when I don't want to be.

Maybe this comes from force of habit. I've been single for far more time than I've been in any sort of relationship, and I've been a recluse as long as I can remember. While my sisters played games in the other room, I would sit on my bed and read.
My classmates played tag with each other...and chased me away from the game. I have better friends than most are blessed with, but none of them live close to me, so even my best relationships are experienced through distance.  As I've grown older, my attempts at deep communion with others, when they have ended, have ended poorly. During the deepest expressions of my heart came the worst forms of rejection. I learned self sufficiency as a young girl because I had to, and over time it became subconscious and automatic. A little while after that, it became my preference. Solitude is strength for me, so even when I am not alone, I feel it, because at the end of the day: I am. Happy for the most part, comfortable all the time, and lonely on occasion, I make more sense to me when I am by myself. I do not know how to react to most relational situations, because almost all of them are new to me. This is an easier reality to talk about than to experience. Especially because my fine line between craving people and solitude sits as an invisible trip wire for others. I hurt people a lot.

I have come to realize something about myself. I am not unlikeable, I'm bad at relationships. Sure, my elementary school rejections have effected my current behaviors, but my long-chosen patterns have restricted me as well. Ask anyone who knows me: I keep people out. Perhaps I am my name after all. Of the ash tree forest; meant to stand quietly between sky and earth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

it's all in your head

I put the eggs on to boil, and set my toaster on the counter. Blood-sugar friendly bread, one slice. Mango jam, and a knife. Salt and pepper at the ready. As I'm standing there in the alleyway of my kitchen, in my housecoat that's actually a second-hand Versace wrap dress, in my perfect second-floor apartment, it hits me: I feel I actually feel it.

A financial adviser once told me, "Poor is a state of mind". Anyone who knows me knows I have debt (for those of you who don't, here's the short version: I was an impatient baby in my early 20's). For many years now I have been trying to erase my financial history. When I heard that statement a few years back, I changed my language, and started calling myself "broke" instead, as the adviser suggested. I didn't want to have a poor state of mind.

Somehow, though, I still felt poor. Or broke. Whatever. The point is, I was unable to see past all of the things I couldn't (and still can't) do. But this morning, as the soft fabric of my robe brushed against my skin, and I let the bright orange jam cheer my senses, I saw in a fresh way all of the things I have oft' taken for granted. Truly, I am doing just fine. Not only to I get to live alone (luxury), sleep and shower at will, and exercise any freedom I want to, I am warm, comfortable, and well-fed. My skin is soft (hard labour? huh?), my hair is clean, and today, like every second Wednesday, is payday.

I have come to realize something about myself. I'm not financially hard-done-by, I'm bad with money. Sure, my younger behaviors have restricted my current liberties, but my current behaviors, to a lesser extent, do the same. "Poor" as a state of mind, and even "broke" as a final reality, are lame excuses for what is often bad money management.