A few months ago I wrote about the importance of having a regular day of rest, however in recent weeks I have neglected this simple but much-needed practice. And so, as I write this, I am ensconced in a fort constructed of blankets and cushions thanks to a cold that took hold on Friday evening.
I’m now on the mend but this time of enforced rest has been a reminder of how I need to be disciplined enough to take consistent and meaningful breaks. But the challenge for me is not physically stopping work, which really is just the ceasing of specific actions, easily measurable and quantifiable. Rather it’s the mental ceasing that takes real discipline, particularly for those of us who have a tendency to live ‘in our heads’ most of the time.
When I had a day job this was no problem for me at all – as soon as I walked out the door I also mentally left the building, already occupied with my ‘other job’ as an artist. Now that being an artist is my only job and I work for myself from home there is no longer a point when I ‘leave the building’ so to speak. I am always an artist, for this is part of who I am in my very core, not just a job title.
Mostly what this means is that I am always wondering, creating, seeking and finding inspiration. Capturing ideas and finding ways to communicate moments of beauty as they speak to me. But as it is in fact also my job there is a constant challenge to produce, not just create. This may sound like mere semantics but the difference is crucial.
For the professional artist there is a tension between making art for its own sake and making art to sell and this can sometimes be disabling to the creative process. Of course the two can overlap, and even joyfully merge, but the pressure to make something to sell can suck the life out of the greatest of ideas. This is where the need to take time out – and be creative for its own sake – is so crucial.
What I’m in the process of learning is that it is indeed possible to structure the business side of being an artist in a way that makes it possible to contain so that it does not spill over and contaminate the innate creativity that shouldn’t be restricted to ‘office hours’. I think that being and an artist and working as an artist have become so conjoined in my thinking that there has been no off switch. The result is that the working side of things has crept in and taken my days of rest hostage.
And so, as well as restricting the business work to specific times, I’m also beginning a couple of creative projects just for me. One will be the keeping of an art journal – a dedicated book to create in where there is no purpose other than the pure enjoyment of creating. I have yet to decide whether I will share these visual musings publicly for I’m wary of it moving beyond something that is purely about the creative process and, counter-productively, becoming about the ‘end result’. For now it will remain a private venture.
Today, however, I return to my imposed rest in the company of books filled with stories to carry my thoughts down paths that lets my mind, not just my body, find respite…
The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room, not try to be or do anything whatever.
A note about the artwork:
This pencil and watercolour artwork is called ‘Nesting Hare’ and features a Leveret peacefully sleeping on a form (a flattened ‘nest’ of grass where hares rest and have their young). It was created a couple of years ago and encapsulates the ‘peace of wild things’ (the title of Wendell Berry’s beautiful poem), and the true rest that comes from a mind free from worry and concerns for what tomorrow may bring.
Many thanks to everyone who contacted me, either publicly or privately, in response to my last post (Some thoughts on how to be an Authentic Artist). I share these thoughts and struggles on this little blog-nook so that I may challenge myself and be transparent and accountable, but also to encourage those who wonder about these very same things. Something that has become clear to me in the responses and contact I receive from those who take the time to read these ponderings of mine is that there is a great deal of common ground to be found among those of us who hold ourselves and our creative musings tightly, padding our way along peripheral pathways in the pursuit of something real. So do continue to share your own thoughts and findings, not just with me but also with other fellow pilgrims, for who knows what help and inspiration you may bring to another.