Hatchling In Ink
News for February
Stop Giving Yourself A Guilt Trip!
Sir John Tenniel (1820 - 1914)
Art AvoidanceWombat Droppings
by Ursula Vernon
I love writing.
I love painting.
Seriously, there is nothing in the world quite like that hyperactive joy when you get the plot JUST SO and you realize something, usually just as you're in the act of writing it, and that bit fits into this bit, and suddenly it all falls together and you find yourself mumbling "Oh my god, I'm a genius!" and the general sensation is of having an orgasm while falling off a cliff onto what may be jagged rocks or lime jell-o and you have no idea which.
Or that bit when you're painting where suddenly everything clicks and you are fired up and for a few brief, glorious moments you cannot lay a stroke wrong and you KNOW when this one is done that people are going to swoon over it because it is brilliant, goddamnit, it is going to look awesome and again with the cliffs and the jell-o and the orgasms.
Knowing all this, why is it that when the time comes to paint or write, I find myself on my hands and knees wiping lint off the baseboard or dusting the ceiling fans or categorizing my books by Dewey decimal system rather than actually DO it?
Seriously. I play more games of Spider Solitaire, I do more busywork, I clean more of my studio when I should be painting… and yet I LOVE painting. And I love writing! If I didn't love those things, I’d go find a job I DID love, since believe me, I'm not in this for the money.
It's not just me, either. I've talked to various creative friends and they will tell me how important it is to play Lego Star Wars or de-lint their sweaters or cook a ten course meal for their cat.
And it's not like I'm not THINKING about it. I fall asleep at night thinking about story ideas and dialog. I get up in the wee hours of the night and stumble around, drawing semi-conscious groans from my boyfriend and moans from the beagle, trying to locate a scrap of paper so that I can scrawl down the giant flying garlic or the three white bettas held up by wires. Ideas pour into my brain and they need to come out and I am an artist and a painter because that's how they GET out.
Part of it might be that I HAVE to do it. It's a job these days, it's how I make a living, if the art doesn't get painted and the books don't get written, I'd starve. That does tend to kill some of the innocent joy of creation and all.
And yet that can't be all of it, because when our charming hostess Ellen says "Hey, I need another soap label/tea label/jackalope racing stripe kit/whatever," that's something I arguably HAVE to do, and yet I generally go "YES!" and leap on it and have it done the next day and enjoy doing it and everything.
And there are paintings nobody knows exists and they probably won't ever buy even if they do exist and nobody is expecting them and I am genuinely excited about them, and yet, look there, Spider Solitaire, and dude, have you SEEN the top of the ceiling fan blades? It's a disgrace.
Part of it may be the chance of failure. When things fail, it grates, and even though they go well about 50% of the time, sometimes, yeah, you've fallen off the cliff into the jagged rocks and there's no jell-o in sight. Fear of failure may definitely be part of it. And yet I'm not thinking about the possibility of failure, most times, so it's a subconscious thing at best, and sometimes there are paintings that I know -- I KNOW -- will succeed, and yet... and yet...
Willpower, man. It's all about the willpower. And that baffles me a bit, because I *KNOW* that I'll enjoy the act of painting, I will be consumed and obsessed by it, I will love the writing, I will crack myself up and be in awe of my own (marginal) genius even if nobody else is.
Why is it so hard to make myself do something I'll love?
I don't have this problem with cheesecake. I mean, I see a cheesecake, I don't have to grit my teeth and drive myself toward it, past the siren song of Solitaire and the Internet and that Thurber collection I've been meaning to read. I see cheesecake and I am there. It does not require a Herculean act of will to pick up the fork.
Maybe it's like parties. You know that you should go out, you know you'll have a blast if you go out, and yet you sigh and drag your feet and nearly talk yourself out of it, because it's just so much effort.
I don't have the answer. These are the things I love most in the world, this is the job I most want to have, and yet some days I will walk across hot coals not to do them.
Sometimes I'll even write columns about avoiding doing them so that I can avoid doing them. And how recursive is THAT?
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