I have not forgotten that I was going to write a post about my good friend, artist Jane Voorhees, in a series about four creative friends who inspire my own life and work. Although I have not done the blog post, Jane and I have decided to do a collaborative work combining sketching and writing, and how the two practices together stretch the imagination and broaden the perspective of the artist. When it’s published, I’ll do the post. Hopefully, because so much of the work is already done, this will be sooner than you think.
I also wanted to write about my friend Malcolm Christian, who runs Caversham Press down in South Africa. But Malcolm is a modest man, not prone to writing emails or long missives on the great work he does turning fine art and empowered artists back into the world to create a better place to live. I’ve decided I need to go down there and interview him myself. It’s a long and expensive flight, so if you feel prone to contribute to this effort, just leave a note in the comments section and I’ll be ever so grateful!
The hard realization that came from this pre-planning posts was that it blocked me like a good fullback from getting to the blogpost at all. I wouldn’t write because I couldn’t write about the things I said I would write. I felt guilty and ashamed that I had so little follow-through. (Guilt and shame, two of the most useless emotions I know, but great blockers.) I knew my artist friends would be disappointed and I felt that I had failed them. The fact of the matter is that whether any of these feelings were true or not didn’t matter. I think both friends would rather me post something than to quit writing my blog completely. As much as I wanted to write about my brother and sister artist, I found that spontaneity was crucial to my posting. For the most part, my blogposts cannot be planned ahead. They must be inspired in the present tense. They are strictly here and now, an act of faith on my part that I will write what needs to be written. I managed to block myself completely by telling you in advance what I was planning to do.
This is not necessarily the case when we create bodies of work that we intend to publish or display. I realize that some think of the blogpost as publishing, but I don’t. This is a dog park for ideas, inspirations and realizations to come together, intermingle, bark at one another and play. When one intends to publish a work of art, then there is the responsibility of reporting to another, having a deadline, following an outline–however you make yourself responsible. But somewhere in the world of creative art, the idea of immediacy plays an important role. While it keeps me responsible to a larger audience, it is also a blank page where I try on ideas, poems, essays…where I can share with you what interests me in the hopes that you, too, will find it interesting.
A previous example of this are the 30-in-30 poems written daily during the month of April. I didn’t have time to plan a poem, and in fact, have taken a lesson from this that many of my best poems are blurted out like a faux pas. I just have to put the pen to paper and write out the feeling that comes to me. Dedication to doing that was the only thing that was needed, and the poems seemed to get better on their own. Like spontaneous combustion, little fires started by rubbing a pen or pencil across paper.
What blocks you, my friend? Discovering that is key to freeing the artist within. How else can we deal with it if we don’t know what it is? You may find several of these little monsters in your repertoire. My advice is to just begin with one. Illustrate him any way you want. Maybe give him a little credit for standing in your way all these years and protecting you from even bigger monsters. Then let that blocker know he’s no longer needed and walk away. Set yourself free by removing, or simply going around, one mountain at a time. Then celebrate your faith, your obstinance. Immediately do something, anything creative; something fresh and different. See if there’s not a new joy in it, an unexpected freedom to take pleasure in your work. It may not happen right away, but have faith, it will.