Of Strings and Little Boxes

Well, I’m several weeks late, but my October Artifice guests were some of my favorites of the whole year. This collection of conversations feels particularly wholesome and full of wonder. And geez Louise – don’t we all need some more of those things? I know I do.

As The Hallowed Wide has been nearing its official release date over the past few months, I’ve found myself once again assessing my place in this whole art/capitalism mess.

I love making art. I love hiring other artists to help bring my projects to full fruition.

But the truth is that being an independent artist is EXPENSIVE – financially, mentally, emotionally…and logistically (try as I may, I can’t seem to find any additional hours in a day).

And music is particularly tricky these days, as the general expectation is that recordings be completely free.

Furthermore, with more music available than ever before, it’s harder and harder to find an attentive audience, and all the easier to find critics.

I’ve realized I also have a strong tendency to conflate the public’s receipt of my creations with my own sense of worth. It’s often heart-breaking. And while the actual creative process is deeply pure and wholesome for me, that tender, precious thing is chipped at on the back end (the release process) in a way that just takes too much, sometimes. A lot of the time. Certainly, too much of the time.

So, I’ve been thinking a LOT about what to do next. And I have lots of ideas.

But really, these three October episodes have been a balm to me as I’ve listened back in prep for this essay. These artists came into their interviews with such beautifully open hearts, and reminded me of some principles I intend to put front and center in my next creative explorations.

Doug (one of the sparkliest persons I’ve ever met) and I talked a lot about the love we put into our work. We both feel an inherent urge to go “all in” on a new idea.

It’s such a high – a new idea. Just a little twinkle of a concept, or a curiosity. And I so love the way Doug put the process into words:

“The way I live my life creatively is I pull on that string – and I pull on that string with everything I’ve got. Because if it’s gonna fail, it’s not gonna fail because I didn’t try. It’s gonna fail because it’s not the right answer. And if it’s gonna succeed, it’s gonna succeed with everything I’ve got. Anything in between…it’s not gonna fail because I didn’t try hard enough.”

And GOSH. I just feel exactly the same way. It’s such a gorgeous feeling to pull those creative strings and just be DYING to see what might be there on the end.

This is the pure creativity I want so much more of. I want to give myself more room to live there. In that blissful creative workshop. Just pulling on strings. Come what may.

In a similar vein, Robert and I talked a lot about the difference between a creative venture and a creative career (a creative life).

From the outside, it’s easy to reduce an artist to their works, their products. It’s easy to want to separate those works from their living, breathing context—to expect an artist to maintain some kind of linear trajectory, to leap from project-to-project sans meandering, or to remain perpetually in the same creative space where we first discovered their work.

But, as Robert so wisely states, “that’s not a life.”

“We think that we define [musicians] looking back linearly to the day they first picked up the instrument…but that’s not a life. The life is all the other experiences you have. And those experiences vary. There’s a certain similarity – everyone deals with success and they deal with disappointment, they deal with loss…and how we deal with that individually is going to be a large part of what we become as creative artists.”

Ugh. I just cannot tell you how much it means to me to hear a mentor speak about life and art in this way.

I so often feel pressure to follow some kind of predicated path, or to smoosh my individuality into a “trending” shape, or to remain quiet about anything that may be perceived as a “deviation” from the aforementioned path. And I am increasingly disinterested in ANY of that kind of thinking. It’s boring and claustrophobic.

I want MORE. I want to be able to jump all around and back-and-forth and between. I want to splish-splash all around my life and pull on all sorts of strings and answer only to myself for the creative adventures I feel inclined to pursue.

And this brings me to Kat. What a wonder of a human. I feel completely blessed to have met her, and to have been gifted the conversation we had.

Without even an ounce of drama, I feel like Kat sort of unlocked something for me. The way she talked about her childhood, and gave me space to talk about mine—I was and am so simply moved.

We talked about the innate wildness of our little-girl selves, wholly absorbed in the natural world, grinding up rocks and berries and leaves, catching little bugs and snakes and frogs. It’s been so long since I let myself feel that time.

I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t put myself back in those feelings. And they are such beautiful, wondrous feelings.

I think of those feelings as the first little inklings of the creative strings Doug described.

And as I small child, I felt those things without baggage.

Kat and I share some experiences of feeling those wild tendencies shrinking under various pressures. But she’s certainly ahead of me in reclaiming that brand of unfettered wonder.

I literally couldn’t keep tears from my eyes as Kat spoke about thanking her flowers for their travels, singing to them, blessing them. It’s that same pure feeling from my childhood. And hearing a grown woman own this wonder without fear or shame or any sort of…posturing?…it just cracked something open for me.

I think it’s a little box I’ve just not been safe enough to open, for so many reasons. But I feel like I am finally safe enough to open it. And I have already begun some small experiments along this particularly pure thread.

I guess I don’t have any specifically weighty conclusion here—but the overwhelming feeling is gratitude in this moment. And that feels appropriate, given the timing.

I’m grateful for artists who share their thoughts and presences with me. I’m grateful for a life safe enough to play in. I’m grateful for time. I’m grateful for the planet. I’m grateful for all sorts of beauty.

And that’s the thing!

So with that, Happy Thanksgiving! May your day be ethical, artful, and full of wonder.