Passionately Pulled

photo credit: Louise Berliner

This morning, while writing copy for my upcoming fiber sculpture show, I couldn’t help thinking about my novel.

Rather, I couldn’t help thinking about this part of me that is Writer, and this other part, Artist.  It’s a question I’ve struggled with much of my life.  Which am I?  And does it matter?

A kind friend says I am both.  Sure.  But learning to embrace the everything of who I am has been a journey, and although for a while I can make peace with myself, I later forget and obsess all over again.  Ah, to be human!  I wonder how many of you share the same experience.

I’d always sketched, glued, painted, just as I’d always written, even as a kid, cranking out a Barbie novel, (yes, it’s true), poems and terribly sad songs (now lost, thank goodness), which I would accompany with a melancholy pre-teen guitar-strum. (Tell me you weren’t doing the same thing in your room with the door shut.) I didn’t differentiate between the two, just moved between the different forms of self-expression with ease.  But as time went on, and I grew older, the world demanded I choose.  And I did.  Writing had always come first, but now I declared it out loud.

The years passed, and while I wrote, I’d also follow the persistent pull to paint and draw. I decided I might not be able to keep from painting, but that didn’t mean I had to be “an artist.”  Since I saw myself as “a writer,” art was free of angst. Making art was my get-out-of-jail-free card.

Over time, the art-making took on a larger life than I’d expected, and I had my next tantrum of existential angst, eventually owning, once again, that these avenues of creative expression were inextricably linked and Enough with this need to define. (Honestly, I think we live in a world and time where the urge to label has gotten out of hand.)  But could I live with that? Could I hold both?  (I did try making sculptures out of rough drafts, and “plein air” poems, in an attempt to literally join the two.)

Well, there was this thing called The Day, containing twenty-four hours, only twenty-four, and a girl’s got to sleep sometime, and maybe eat.  Writing, as well as weaving a sculpture, takes time. Lots of it.  Dream time, walking time, processing-with-your-friends time. And revision, and more dreaming. I was told by some there wasn’t enough time to do both, but what did they know, anyway?  Yes,  there were plenty of times one pushed the other off the stage for as long as several months or longer. But ultimately I’d boomerang back.

I wish I could l say I eventually arrived at a solution.  At times I am at peace with the pulls, and other times I feel a sense of overwhelm and a selfish kind of grief.  Although I have tons of brilliant ideas for works I’d like to make with my hands, I’ve begun to accept I may never execute them.  And although I am excited about and committed to completing the novels I’m working on currently, I don’t know what I’ll do when they are complete.  I might start on my next career as jazz vocalist.

Many years ago I had the good fortune to find myself a member of Turtle Studios, run, at the time, by the fabulous Kate Ransohoff.  The primary principle of that studio was PLAY.  Play, Kate argued, was the source of all creativity.  And sure enough, it was through the process of playing with a pile of lentils, buttons, rocks and other curious objects, that my first novel was born.

Kate took the controversy out of the writing/art thing.  When I wrote, great. When I got stuck, I was encouraged to return to using two hands.  Words, Color, all were welcome. I collaged, painted, played relentlessly, and wrote the first draft of a book.  Later I would find my way to the weaving of sculptural baskets, which became my art form of choice.

Kate’s solution wasn’t as simplistic as having me turn to art to solve the writing.  She was showing me art and words come from the same place, but over time, I forgot.

So what does this have to do with my novel or yours?  I suggest it means we can be more holistic in our approach to our craft.  We can see it as part of the creative river of ourselves– which is fed by all kinds of tributaries like cooking, gardening, walking.  We and it don’t have to look just one way–we don’t have to all-or-nothing it.  In the end, we just need– rather, I just need to make peace with all the parts of me which, like good compost, enable my novel and sculptures to grow.

For those of you living in the Boston area, here is a link to the show announcement (at a library, no less!) 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.