“Someday,” I used to tell myself, “When I don’t have a job to go to, or school, I will start working as a full-time writer and artist, and then I’ll really get some work done.” I would daydream about how fabulous it would be to have all day to write or draw: I’d get up early, do my morning pages, have some exercise, and then sit down at my desk and watch the amazingness flow from my hands. Of course I knew it wouldn’t be that easy, but it had to be better than fitting art in where I could, right?
Nowadays, I don’t have a job. I don’t go to school. I live in a comfortable house with a Bay view and Erik’s income is the “artist grant” that enables me to spend every day creating. Isn’t that awesome?
Well — like everything in this life — it is and it isn’t. We could all sit around here berating me for wasting my privilege (and believe me, no one’s criticism could be more brutal than my own). But things are what they are, and I figure that this moment — when I’ve just turned 30, I’m having those end-of-year introspective sessions, and am about to start a new lifestyle in just a few months — is a good time to reflect and share.
These are the pros:
- I don’t have to worry about money. I still do — I try to be prudent — but it’s not a burden the way it is for most people, and I do know what a blessing this is.
- My time is my own. I don’t have kids and I’ve purposely limited my other obligations so I can create as much as possible. If I want to spend a week watching movies or reading children’s books, I do — and I’m just starting to realize that these “self-indulgences” do actually feed my art, and aren’t just me being lazy.
- With this time and money, I can do all kinds of great things to support my art. I can take workshops and classes, I can go on retreat, I can buy books and supplies. I can also take good care of myself by exercising, meditating, going on artist dates, seeing friends, and so forth.
These are major, are they not? Time, money, freedom — they are the things everyone wants. I certainly do produce a fair amount of work, which you have seen here and on flickr (and there’s plenty I haven’t shared, too). My life is a dream, and I’m grateful.
But… sometimes it feels like a dream in a more literal sense. Think of those days or weeks of vacation when you delighted to find time stretching out before you like an endless beach — and then, when it was over, you couldn’t recall what you did with your time or how it slipped away so quickly. Recall those afternoons or weekends when you were so excited to finally have time to work on your projects, and then the sink backed up or the cat got sick or your friend called and invited you out or “I’ll just clean the house first.” Now you have a good sense of the cons:
- When time and money seem ample, it can be hard to feel urgency. I’m reasonably self-motivated, but “later” and “tomorrow” hold as much magical procrastinative power for me as for anyone… and without jobs or deadlines to whip me back into line, it’s all on me to make my own routine and stick to it.
- I answer to no one but myself — but I’m a perfectionist. There is no boss on earth who could put me through the kind of guilt, performance pressure, and self-doubt that I place on myself. And no one can talk me out of it either, except myself! For someone with nothing to worry about, I have an awful lot of restless nights and tormented journal entries (and you’ve seen that here, too).
- With so much that I can (and do) do, it is very easy to lose sight of my true goals. I get bogged down in small things, or else I think I’m “working hard” just because I’m taking a class and reading LM Montgomery’s journal (which is desperately fascinating, by the way). Not that these things aren’t important… but I don’t have the drive or the clarity of, say, someone who scribbles poems in her precious half-hour lunch break because that’s the only time she’s got all day.
- I don’t have to see people, I don’t have to go anywhere. That can sound like bliss, but when it goes on too long, it’s really a little death. A writer-thinker needs people to make her wonder and stretch and give her ideas; an artist’s eyes and senses need new things and places. I’ve learned a lot of good tricks for working from home (getting out of the PJ’s is key!), but I still have to combat natural homebody and hermit tendencies. Sometimes they win. Okay, a lot of the time they win; then I don’t leave the house for days, and by the next get-together I am a little slow in remembering how to talk to someone who’s not Erik.
This last item has become especially pronounced in the past year. Somehow — and I don’t know how or when this happened — I stopped going to regular yoga classes, and I found ways to consolidate errands. Several local friends moved away. I haven’t not gotten out, but with these changes, several of my safety valves were gone, so that I’ve had far less excuse for going out than I did when we first moved here in 2009. I think it’s this state of lowered social interaction that’s partly responsible for all the introspection and feelings of loneliness. On the other hand, the last six months have almost definitely been one of the most productive creative periods of my life, so there’s some correlation there.
Anyway, this has been my life for the past two years, and though it’s been wonderful (and wonderfully enlightening), I’m ready for a change. I think if I kept this up any longer I’d become too much a hermit… and I think I’d find diminishing returns on my work, too; already my creative energy has been flagging. I’m ready to go elsewhere and shake things up! Even though we don’t leave here till April at earliest, the changes have already begun. I want to see as many friends as possible before we move, and I’m also gradually getting rid of (or packing away) our stuff. I am enjoying the shakeup. It’s a good time to be moving back out into the world.