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Practice

A lifelong challenge, and one I continue to work on, is my creative practice. Because I write and make visual work I not only have time management kicking my ass but choices: do I take the time I have and go into the studio or do I sit down at my desk and write?

For long stretches I chose neither and spent time in the bummer tent, fearing both failure and success. What if I truly did all the things I wanted to do and actually succeeded? What if in doing the work I exposed myself for the fraud I suspected I was? Both possibilities scared the hell out of me. I did set goals and attain them. I have had an art practice for decades, showed the work, made public art projects and taught as a visiting artist. In the studio I have confidence that I will get where I want to go, though as time passes I sometimes wonder about the ethics of making more objects in this object laden world. That’s for another post.

With fiction writing, I am still establishing my practice, moving the bar up as I am able to achieve smaller goals: writing every day, saying what I want to say, revising more coherently. I aim to lengthen the time I spend writing every day. Not an outliner, I’d like to be able to streamline the plot process – I see the usefulness of outline and the economy of that practice, and am starting to use spreadsheets and folders for developing characters, doing the background work of exploring who these people are before I construct an entire draft.

One rule I made for myself this year was to focus mainly on the writing and put my visual work on the back burner. This has been helpful in terms of time and energy, but two experiences in the last week have made me rethink this decision.

A week ago I worked with enamel master Dave Berfield in his Bainbridge Island studio, returning to some unsuccessful panels I started a year ago. The cost of working in the studio along with the frustration of having work fail during firing had kept me away, but that day was a good day. I stepped closer to finishing two pieces and started a new panel. I remembered why I love the medium, and we mixed a new blue that I have absolutely fallen for.

At the same time I was working at home on a few paintings to contribute to an auction for my alma mater, The Evergreen State College. I develop ideas for porcelain work by painting, and painting itself is nothing short of a blessed activity, centering, calming and filled with discovery. Each time I return to painting I wonder why I’m not painting every day. Which brings us back to the practice.

Visual work makes me more acute, happier and connected to my authentic self. This can only do good things for my emerging writing practice. Yes, I still have to choose how best to spend creative time, but my self-imposed rules need a little fudging, a little fuzzing, a little bend-ability. Anyone else out there struggling with a writing/visual practice? What’s your approach?

2 Comments

  1. Tina,

    Your visual work is an immediate invitation. There is something about the physical act of making that just does not translate to crafting a word, at least for me. How do you balance the two? I’m certainly not the one to answer that but if I were you, I would consider a balance of both.

    Sean

    • Thanks, Sean – This is the challenge, because while both activities sustain and engage, they are fundamentally different acts of creation for me. Balance is hard everywhere in life, isn’t it? I am trying to work myself into a place where I don’t have to choose either/or.

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