I'm embarking on this journey as a working artist - which means, to me, that I'm stating through word and action that my writing and my documentary filmaking are my real work. The job that does-not-quite-support me is simply income. Even my cocktail conversation -- my answer to the what do you do question -- has changed. I'm working on a book, and a documentary film. And I do this internet/print marketing gig for money.
At a party, I mostly leave out the fact that the woman I work for refers to me as a "personal assistant." I don't actually mind being called a personal assistant. I'm getting paid a decent amount of money, and part of my learning around this job is that I don't get emotionally invested in what I do, or the people I work for. That doesn't mean I don't care -- I do. But craziness exists in EVERY workplace, and this is practice for me to keep my head and my heart out of it. When my income producing job was also the work-of-my-heart (as in my time at the Center for Documentary Studies) I got completely wacked out on office politics. Any reasonable person would have, to be sure, but I chose to let it crash over me like a North Shore wave.
In certain circumstances, I'm just fine if folks don't ask me "what are the book/documentary about?" I can live without going into the details of bipolar disorder with an almost stranger when I have a plate of sausage ball in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. On the other hand, even at my parents' holiday open house, I found myself in more than one deep conversation about depression, mental illness, and struggle -- while standing next to the fridge, or on the couch. By then, I'd switched to Diet Pepsi.
I hope my penchant for intense dialogue won't stop you from inviting me to your party. I'm a lot of fun, and I looked really pretty in my sparkly holiday garb. Lots of people said so -- not just my parents.
Ok. Not unlike what happens when I sit down to write, now I'm going to get to the idea that got me writing this afternoon.
I am in transition. With this whole trying to be a working artist, there are so many steps. First was finding a part-time job that didn't suck out my soul. Done. Actually, first was to decide I wasn't going to jump back into a full-time job; instead, I am working to keep focused on my identity as a "community based, mixed media, conceptual artist/activist" that was so nurtured at Pendle Hill. I am going to remain spiritually grounded (that's only going ok).
I'm getting screwed up with verb tenses, here. I will, I have, I am. None of it is working. I have a whole 'nother post -- actually, I have a chapter, gosh forbid -- that I want to write about the dangers of not only negative predictions, but of the potential tyranny of positive ones.
Here's what I wanted to say when I first started writing. That in order to write, I can't just say, ok, there it is, on your calendar: "Write, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday." No, it starts back with getting to sleep at a reasonable hour on Tuesday night. And getting to work on time. And maybe exercising. It's a whole life I'm trying to construct -- a life I want to be present in.
I'm tempted at the cellular level to write from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. I'd get a lot done. But the next day, I'd be sick with emotion, not to mention how my body would feel. If I fell into a pattern like of late night/early morning and then sleeping much of the day, not only would I lose my job, but I would also be dangling bloody meat before the ravanging wolf of bipolar disorder. Here, kitty kitty kitty.
I'm having to learn a whole 'nother way of being a creative person, one that does not involve painful sprints and abrupt, muscle tearing, screeching halts.
I don't feel sweet about having to learn a new way of being. It's not entirely new -- when I worked in clay at Pendle Hill, I created and presented art without the sprint. Not without angst, but without the crazy. I was, however, living in community. I was being fed three meals a day. I was hanging close to God, and I had the best teammate EVER in launching the exhibition. I wasn't so dang alone.
The alone, well, I need to work on that. While to say that my Mom totally rocks is an understatement, I looked at my social calendar this week, and it was like, "Mom" three times. That was it. Now, that's my own fault. I now have two additional engagements, neither with family members. But I just haven't reached out to the amazing community here in Durham the way I need to. I have friends, I just need to take the initiative and get out there...
In summation: my first job isn't being an artist. My first job is being present, being well, having a LIFE. I'd like to skip that part and get right to being a writer and a documentary filmmaker. Frustratingly, that won't happen, not for any sustainable period of time.
I feel so jangly, in pieces all over the place. But in this moment I'm writing. And in this moment. And in this one...