Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Can Art Save Us?

So it's been a while since I've blogged.

And I've missed it.

More than I could have imagined.

What's been more interesting is the notion of how not writing for a few days has made me kinda, well, crazy. Perhaps more unsettled and discombobulated more than anything, but still. It's been kinda like what I imagine it means for someone to go off their meds. I don't mean to diminish the affect of medication for serious psychological issues, but it doesn't feel too far off on some level. I get all weepy and feel sorry for myself and don't want to go places and generally am not so fun to be around... Which is unfortunate for everyone (including me) because on my better days, I'm a pretty happy, insightful gal.

So why haven't I been writing? A couple of reasons. One, I just finished another draft of my manuscript and felt the need to take a mental rest while I wait for comments from a few smart readers. Also, I've been feeling the need to ramp up my job search considerably, endlessly combing the bowels of the internet for opportunities that match my unusual experience and skill set. Not that I think this is a bad idea, and it certainly has reduced my stress-level in that area. However, at the end of the day, the tangible outcome is difficult to qualify. I come to believe that halting the writing process is the more "responsible" thing to do, that it is something that I can come back to once I get myself "settled."

What I fail to realize, again and again, is just how unsettled I become. Ah, the irony. And it always takes me more than a few days of flailing to realize the source of my unrest. Part of me refuses to believe that something as simple as a post about a common pop song, or the edit of a sublimely perfect word, or 500 words on a local happening, or even an in-depth email can keep the existential what's-it-all-mean / why-bother-when-there's-so-much suffering dogs at bay.

Oh, but how it does.

Which gets me thinking about the emotional lives of those who chose to surround themselves with art. Growing up, I often found much peace in simply being among my family and watching TV, or listening to records with my brother, or even the endless hours spent bonding with friends playing pool in my basement and watching music videos. As an adult, I am pleased to be considerably more active, but I'll admit I will refuse to pull a single weed in my yard or walk a single step around the park without my iPod firmly attached to my hip. I find it difficult to read a book without marking a passage and transcribing it in my journal. The other night I forced myself to go to the Ohio Theater to see Some Like it Hot, and left the place postively gleeful.

Occasionally, I am suspicious. Surely this kind of delight can be achieved in other ways - human contact, comes to mind. And I have plenty of that in my life. Perhaps art "is" human contact, only delayed. Someone you've never met has a particular talent and has an experience. She writes a song about that experience, sitting alone in a room. Months later, an assembled team of highly skilled professionals have thier own experience crafting those songs into an album. A year later, a thousand miles away, one of those songs is chosen as a prom theme. Fifteen years later, that songwriter grows cynical and fades into obscurity. Until a filmmaker with a bit of a buzz, who hated the prom-song, but played the B-side over and over during his parents' divorce, offers the singer a chance to score a small but personal film that goes on to become the sleeper hit of a particular generation and inspires someone to write a book.

And on and on...

Of course, much of the above is high-level delusion. But I think smaller scales of that delusion is what keeps writers, painters, actors, musicians, and other creative people afloat. And sane. Until they decide they need to ditch it all in the name of responsibility. Not that being responsible isn't admirable. God knows irresponsible artists tend to turn into miserable dependents. And I know how lucky I am for the circumstances and advantages that allow me this kind of wandering existence without resorting to desperate measures. I just know for myself, when I get into a focused surge of needing to move into a new stage of my life, it is my creative side that often suffers most.

I just wish I'd keep forgetting this reality again and again.

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