ART…it’s not like that!

I talk, perhaps more than I should, about how writing works. My students are patient to put up with the ongoing stream of consciousness on the subject. One of the central things I try to convey is: It’s not like that.

It’s easy to have romantic ideas of how good writing comes about. Some still cling to this idea that writers are off in garrets–maybe even in Paris, swilling absinthe and smoking Galois–and they have nothing but time on their hands to suffer and create and make trips to Jim Morrison’s grave. Or they’re all clustered at the U of Iowa, like ghosts in the hallways, looking for Raymond Carver. Recently someone attempted to educate me with this concept: all writers are alcoholics.

Well…many of the writers I know have children, work out at the gym, have day jobs and lousy mortages or rent payments, check in with ailing parents, fret over politics and war and taxes, secret chocolate bars, rarely see their friends enough, don’t have the energy to get loaded, and almost universally stay up too late, get up too early, and never wait for inspiration in order to  crank out their right and beautiful books.

Seaside on MarsI’ve had a chance to see how this process plays out in a visual artist’s world recently. She began a series of collages last spring. For this work, she does not pace in a big studio or loft, she does not have expensive supplies or assistants milling about, waiting to praise her every brushstroke. Instead she works out of her kitchen where she props her canvases–in this case tiles–on her stove. Around her the fish tanks her husband tinkers with, a quirky collection of vases, a cluster of papers and objects arriving and being shipped out, and the fixings of the evening meal, and of course: glue, scissors, paint, brushes. From this bunker she produces some of the most remarkable work I have known. But honestly, I think you just have to see for yourself. And then think: real world. Because that’s the realm in which it happens. Click on the words real world and…I give you the work of Jinx Nolan.

2 Comments

  1. Linda K says:

    You are so right, Lise. You can’t wait for inspiration to come to you. It’s something you have to work at despite the distractions. Jinx’s art is awesome.

  2. Wow, Lise– I think I know some of these ‘many of the writers’; I’m always amazed at all you are able to sum up in one sentence; this is one such all-too-true sentence:

    “many of the writers I know have children, work out at the gym, have day jobs and lousy mortages or rent payments, check in with ailing parents, fret over politics and war and taxes, secret chocolate bars, rarely see their friends enough, don’t have the energy to get loaded, and almost universally stay up too late, get up too early, and never wait for inspiration in order to crank out their right and beautiful books.”

    Thanks Lise for laying it all out there, but ending on a right & beautiful note…

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