Post from 1455, November 2011

Art is Not a Luxury!

Monday, 14. November 2011 0:54

This week two friends spoke to me about not being able to pursue their art. When I examined my own situation, I found that I too had been neglecting some of my artistic activity. Although the details in each case are different, they all boil down to the same thing: we are too busy to produce art. The unfortunate side effect is that as we do that we find not only something missing from our lives, but something missing from our psyches as well.

One person, whose work is very stressful said, “I just go to work then go to sleep.” Another person is having financial difficulties and finds it imprudent to spend money on art lessons; additionally, he needs to put the time he used to spend on art toward needed overtime. I find that the non-creative or work-related creative aspects of my life have taken over, leaving little time to do any personal work.

Steven Pressfield or Julia Cameron might say that all three of us are suffering from “resistance,” letting that part of our brain that “protects” us make up reasons that we cannot make our art. And there are lots of those reasons, which are nicely summarized by Jenna Avery in “Resistance is Futile:”  “What am I going to get out of it? I’m too busy. I have more important things to do first. I have to overhaul my whole life first.”  The three of us would probably fall into at least one of these categories. After all, we have to survive, and survival certainly takes precedence over personal creative work.

None of us have enough time. Well, maybe some people do, but I don’t know any of them. Rather, I don’t know any people who are active in the arts who have enough time.  Whether it’s being so tired after a long, stressful day that all you want to do is sleep, or doing so much that there is no time to fit in personal art work, having sufficient time is a problem. Julia Cameron advises that we get up earlier, in order to get the creativity back in our lives, and there are a number of artists, particularly writers, who have used this technique.  Many of us, however, already feel like we are barely getting enough rest as it is, or, in some cases, too little. The fact is the human body has to rest in order to be productive at all, so for some, the early-to-rise method is not really practical. The same thing goes for the stay-up-late approach.  Time is limited, and if we are using 16-20 hours a day to accomplish our money-making jobs, it leaves very little for art.

And then there is the issue of expense. No matter what medium you work in, there are expenses involved, and sometimes significant expenses. Many people take classes to improve their skills; those are not free. For visual and plastic artists there is materials expense. If you exhibit or sell work, there are associated expenditures. So money is not only necessary to live, but is also a requirement for doing art.  It’s not just a matter of having enough time. It’s a matter of both time and money.

Since we cannot create more time, we have to somehow rearrange the time we have, perhaps applying smaller chunks to tasks, perhaps planning better. There are a number of possibilities. As for money, most of us have a finite amount, and often not enough to spend frivolously. Money spent on art-making is not frivolous, but it may be of lower priority than housing or food. But while we are saving our pennies, we can engage in creative endeavors that require little in the way of expense: jot down ideas, sketch, write. Essentially, keep creativity flowing, so that when an extra dollar comes along, we can spend on our art wisely.

We can and must figure out times and ways to allow ourselves to be creative, and not at some vague time in the future when we “have time” or “can afford it.” We must make time now for creativity or suffer for it. Art and creativity are not luxuries; for many of us they are necessities.

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