One of the great privileges of being at an artist’s residency (as I was, but alas, am no longer) is letting the quality of your days be guided entirely by how well your creative activity is going. Bad writing day? You will feel shitty. But at least you’ll feel that way because of a struggle towards expression, and not because you’re struggling merely to find the time for expression.
(Side note: I actually dislike thinking about art as merely “expression” because that makes it sound like cheap therapy. But that’s the expression that comes to mind, and I’m sticking with it. One of the great privileges of blogging vs. writing fiction is being able to poke fun at your own occasional laziness, as a way of letting that laziness remain.)
Naturally, at the Willapa Bay AiR, the other artists and I discussed the ups and downs of our work, most often during the wonderful meals. (Hi, Darice. I made a strawberry mousse from scratch yesterday and I thought of you.) And one thing I found particularly interesting was how many more material constraints there are on the visual disciplines. (Not to mention composing, where you actually often have to pay performers just to see your work come to fruition.)
I’m not sure why this surprised me – all art is hard, right? – but I guess as writers we’re used to casually complaining about the difficulties of our work. (See above, re: laziness, blogging.) Either people aren’t reading enough or the book industry is dying or celebrities are publishing trashy memoirs or there’s systemic discrimination or, or, or.
All these complaints are actually, to greater and lesser degrees, valid. But evidently, visual artists not only have to pay hundreds of dollars for materials and storage (of said materials and the art they yield), they also have to give 50% of their earnings to whatever gallery they were lucky enough to find representation with, and that’s before taxes. They have a much harder time working without a designated studio – you can’t exactly sculpt at a coffee shop, or while waiting to board an airplane.
Having this conversation provided me with a rare glimmer of perspective: I was able to see, at least for a moment, that writing is a privileged sphere. And yes, its accessibility is exactly what leads so many people to devalue it (“I can write a book; anyone can write a book; my five-year-old has a better blog than this*” etc.) But give me my nice feeling, won’t you?
(What does any of this have to do with a drawing of an indecisive alligator-crossed-with a zebra? Well dear readers. You decide?)