What I’m Thinking Now: My Art Is Going “Nowhere” and I’m OK with That

I did two art shows earlier this summer. Another time I’ll write in greater detail about how they went, but for now, I’ll say that one was a solo watercolor show at a local boutique, and the other was a group art/craft fair where I drew live portraits. I also sold original watercolors and prints at a small craft fair last December. Before that, if I recall correctly, I think my last public work of any kind (not counting this blog or social media) was this short piece that went online in October 2017. Three events, including my first-ever solo show, within a roughly half-year period would have been a big deal even before I became a parent, but now, when so much of my life is consumed with my toddler? It feels as huge as being on TV. 

Whenever I have a moment like this — and somehow it seems like these events always do come in groups — I always feel like my creative career (if we can call it a career, which I’m never sure I can) would now be ready to go somewhere if only I could get things together enough to seize the momentum. But it never happens like that, partly because I don’t have enough work to keep it going, but also because I don’t have the stamina. I don’t know if it’s defeatist or just realistic to accept that I am not doing the constant, now-this-now-that hustle and chase of a freelance writer; I am not cloistered in my studio producing output to submit to galleries; nor am I really doing anything else with my work in a consistent fashion. And I wasn’t, even before I had a kid. For one thing, I don’t have to, for income or funds. But in addition, my creativity seems to go through intense cycles of productivity and rest, just naturally — and, because I work both visually and in words, it’s quite hard for me to get momentum on either of those pursuits because I’m always going back and forth between them. 

I made myself a sort of pact, some months or years ago, that I would allow myself, in this so-intensive time of early parenting, to take things slow and not get stressed about what else I am (or am not) doing with my life. I get overstimulated easily, and I need a lot of time to process. It makes a lot of sense that, for me, parenting just has to be central right now — or, rather, parenting cushioned by as much self-care as I can muster. But I still wonder sometimes if I’m unwise to not grab harder onto these stretches of creative-career opportunity when they arise; I wonder if someday, decades into the future, I’ll look back on all these disparate moments and conclude that I could have done (been) more if I’d only tried harder to seize each wave. 

But then I also think, sometimes, that this stop-and-go pattern is my momentum, and that someday all these seemingly disconnected pieces willcome together and we’ll discover that I was working toward something bigger all along — something so big, in fact, that such long rest periods are required, because my maturity and skill and self-understanding need decades to grow toward the kind of work that I’m here to do. 

Anyway, what I also know is that learning to do something looks like not doing it [in the link, look for the section that starts with Katy saying “I think back to my kids”]. So now that, after a very busy spring and summer, I look like I’m doing nothing except writing these short blog posts and occasionally making drawings, well, I think that’s OK.