Right as I was arriving to the airport for a flight to Kansas City (for a team-meeting/brainstorm with all of my fellow Diamond Empire Band producers), my flight was cancelled. So, now I’m just chilling at the airport for about 7 hours, while I wait for the next flight out.
And I figured I’d take this time to hit you with a classic DEEP DIVE!
Oof. It’s been too long, my friend.
In case you’ve forgotten, my Deep Dive essays are creative writing homework I give myself each month. 🙈
It’s important to me to keep my writing and thinking muscles fresh, so I’ve built myself this little system…
At the top of every month, I review my notes on the past month’s Artifice episodes, I look for some throughline in all of the pod convos, and I write an essay on that subject!
It’s become one of my favorite art practices, and I’ve missed it so much in the past three months (you may recall I delayed releasing Artifice Season 7 because of my gotdamn knee injury and how much gotdamn time and energy that has required). << fun fact, I have patellar tendon tendinitis now AS IF FOUR SEVERE LIGAMENT INJURIES WAS NOT ENOUGH!!!
What do you know – March’s episodes have presented me with some perfectly meta magic to work with.
Today’s Deep Dive subject is…giving oneself art homework! Haha.
As I mentioned in my last essay, I’ve been reading an INCREDIBLE new book – Your Brain on Art.
It’s making me feel acutely virtuous about all of the art I consume and create. 😅
Jokes aside, the truth is that sometimes I can get feeling a little sheepish about these things…
I was raised to see creative behaviors as, at best, a means to a very uncreative end (i.e. college applications, and manufactured “well-roundedness”), and at worst, a distinctly unattractive display of self-indulgence.
But WOW! This book has just blown that whole pile of bullshit away. Art is just unequivocally good for us. Period. The end.
And my March Artifice guests both had gorgeous things to say about making time for making art.
My interview with poet Katharine Coles is one of my favorite conversations of my entire life, so far. She left me inspired down to my BONES.
I want to share two thoughts from our conversation…
Early in the interview, I asked Katharine how she deals with identifying herself as “a poet”—a term that could feel exceedingly lofty in a colloquial setting.
She talked about a phenomenon I know well, wherein the artist identifies herself as such, and the questioner answers “I’m a poet/singer/artist, too!”
…often followed by something like “I just can’t find the time to write,” or “I just have more practical things to focus on right now,” or “I’m just waiting until I have the right inspiration/motivation to start up again.”
On the one hand, I feel strongly that every human deserves to create art, and to claim “artist” as an identity, if it feels right to them.
On the other, as I consider myself, my students, my peers striving to build a life of artistic pursuits, I often feel that something is being lost in translation.
Katharine cuts right to the quick of the matter as she says “the [artist] is the one who figures out how to structure [all of the necessary aspects of life] in a way that protects the art…that is the time that you absolutely protect.”
It’s such a simple reminder that art is a muscle one must exercise regularly, if it is to remain fertile.
Art-making is often joyful work, but work nonetheless.
And more often than not, it’s work you must assign to yourself!
As I am at the end of one years-long project (The Hallowed Wide), and at the beginning of something new, I’m struck full force with this principle, and doing my best to be present during all of the thinking, questioning, exploring, and synthesizing this new project requires.
I’m so glad I thought to ask Katharine about her process. She shared some insights I imagine I’ll treasure for decades.
“I have all this stuff, and I know that at some point I’m gonna realize I need more stuff…but it’s kind of a thicket. And I can’t really figure out how to get out of that thicket.”
I remarked that it’s almost like a puzzle, and Katharine responded with a cascade of art bombshells.
“You’re putting this puzzle together, but you have to make a lot of the pieces as you’re going. It’s like – oh yeah, this has to go like this, but I’m missing a piece here, and a piece here – and then there’s other stuff where you think ‘oh, I spent SO much time and energy on that piece, but that has to go away.’” 🤯
I, having often experienced the same, suggested that it’s like a sculptor carving out of marble, and Katharine SKIPPED NARY A BEAT to say…
“I’m really sorry that Rodin had to chip away all of that marble to get at the figure within, but WE [writers] have to make a mountain, and then quarry the marble, and then…” <<< mic drop moment
And I just…I cannot explain how apt this feels. These things are so. much. work. (and so worth the work, if they’re worth the work to you, you know?)
In similar fashion, muralist Aelias entered the world taking his work seriously.
I loved hearing about his childhood passion project—digging war trenches in the backyard.
There’s a beautiful meticulousness to a child-artist’s work. A precious sort of perfectionism.
Aelias talks about working from sun up to sun down on his trenches. Alone, absolutely self-motivated, visionary, so serious.
He tells about his mother coming out to invite him in for lunch, and responding “I don’t want to right now, I’m BUSY.” Like – obviously, mom! How dare?!
Ugh. I love it so much. I’m obsessed with a child taking their self-assigned projects so seriously.
Naturally, nothing has changed for Aelias.
As an adult, he finds himself regularly struck by the need to reinvent—“now it’s time to learn new things. What can I get myself info? What kind of problems can I create for myself to solve?”
So simple. But it feels profound to me.
I have a MOUNTAIN of homespun assignments waiting for me, as I dig into the next chapter of my creative evolution. Lists upon lists. Ideas upon ideas. Projects upon projects.
I don’t know exactly where it’s all headed (I’m still building the thicket I’ll need to emerge from, eventually), but I am trusting my gut and taking my assignments one at a time, quite seriously.
But…unlike Aelias, I’ll probably make time for lunch haha. (maybe right now, using the meal voucher Delta gave me for cancelling my flight)
Until next time…Happy art-making, darling!