Hi, my name is Monica, and I’m an addict.
I’m one week into my newfound desire to create artwork, and while I can say I’m absolutely ecstatic to feel the charcoal under my fingernails again, I can’t say this has been a week free from stress and pain. My life companion, Anxiety, continues to surprise me with her ability to regenerate. As I evolve she seems to evolve with me. Today she’s telling me that I need to work faster to make up for all that lost time…
Uh, gaslight much?
For years I kept my creative spirit in a cage to appease Anxiety. Now I set it free and Anxiety says, “What took so long?” If I thought I’d find some magical calm in this art world, I was sadly mistaken. But, as I’ve said many times before, as much as Anxiety drives me crazy, she also kind motivates me. So, thanks to her I’m pumping out a piece a day.
Here’s the problem with Anxiety. It can represent both sides of a fight at the same time. On one hand I feel an uncontrollable need to be creating art constantly right now, on the other, I am drenched in guilt for choosing to oblige those desires. And even worse, I feel disappointed when I’m not there. So basically every moment I’m with my child I deep down want to be somewhere else. It’s taken me 5 years to finally reach a point in parenthood where I’ve been able to fully appreciate the action of being a mom. I’ve enjoyed almost a full year, thanks to Covid, of quiet time at home. I mean I’ve actually enjoyed it. I can proudly say I think I’ve at least reached intermediate level of the skill to evict cares and concerns, maybe not indefinitely, but at least for short periods of time. I’ve worked hard to reach that level of peace that can only be found inside of a single moment, and my relationship with my husband and my daughter has soared because of it. I can honestly say that I’ve Loved being a wife and a mother this year. And I can honestly say I haven’t always in the past. But almost as soon as this new feeling of calm joy enveloped me, it was harshly blown out of my reach again by a gust of inspiration.
The pace at which art ideas are blasting at me is frankly terrifying. It’s like that scene in A Beautiful Mind when numbers and equations swirl around John Nash’s head. I feel and see potential art ideas and images and shapes and emotions rolling around me like a vicious but exhilarating wave. I’m scared, and I’m also vibrating with excitement. I’m compelled to bring these ideas to life, but I’m scared at what cost this work will have on a life I’ve worked so hard to create. Every star, every cake, I’ve wished for peace. This is not peaceful, but damn it’s rewarding and fun. This is my drug. This is my dream and my nightmare all wrapped in one. I’m afraid to stop, and I’m terrified to continue. But I think, just maybe, this is what true passion is supposed to feel like. Maybe, This IS Right.
I’ve been twirling in this art funnel for a week now. Every waking second is consumed with my desire and need to create. I’m still somehow managing to maintain my normal schedule of life responsibilities, but I can’t say my mind has been fully present in each task. Either way, my house has stayed upright, my child fed and educated, my husband loved. I’m in no risk of my pets being removed for neglect, and, probably mostly thanks to Tom, our restaurant is staying afloat. Life is good. From the outside, one might even say my life looks peaceful. But my insides are a tangled freeway, ideas and doubts speeding, swerving, crashing. Fear and aspiration gripped in battle. Despite the guilt, I’ve managed to clock in a couple hours of work at my newly created studio space each day or at my computer at home. My website and blog are growing better each day. I’m actually studying art again, researching new movements and new creators. I’ve worked to broaden my access to like minds, and I’ve concentrated on defining my art goals. This is all good hard work. And for this I do feel productive, which is fantastic for someone like me. Productivity rules me. But my end game is still unclear. I don’t know where I’m going with all of this work, but perhaps the journey is far more important than the destination. Art is a living moving thing. I’m harnessing it as it flies past me as best I can, the little bits and pieces of ideas that I can wrangle to paper, but just as it comes it goes. I know I’m only taking part of its being, and for now that has to be enough. I’ve wanted so desperately to feel these winds for years, and now that I finally do I’m so scared that I won’t be able to hang on to them. I’m grasping desperately. Pleading. But how do you do that? How can I physically cage an invisible thing. The only way I know is to be here ready to work as fast as possible whenever it flows through me. And I can’t do that if I’m at home teaching my daughter math or making a grilled cheese.
There’s got to be a way to do both simultaneously.
I have to. I’m incomplete without both sides.
And what happens if my creative spirit gives up on me, dejected by my absence too many times? What if it can go just as quickly and easily as it came? I fear the certain pain of that void would be too much to bear. So in an attempt to not have to feel that pain, I instead seem to be carrying the weight of its possibility.
The pain and fear are here. And neither option in front of me will change that.
So what am I going to do?
I choose work. I will continue to carve out tiny bits of time here and there for myself. I will continue to practice, as much as I can. I will continue to keep a book of thoughts and inspirations at arm’s reach, because if I can’t physically make the ideas, I can at least remember them. Hopefully, if they’re as interested in me as I am in them, then maybe, as my schedule permits, the idea and I can work together. I’d like to think I’m worth waiting for. I know the idea is.
I’m also trying not to be so critical of my work. I am without practice. Of course, I logically know this. But every mark I make now is moving me forward. Every white space I get lost in is a tiny room to gather my thoughts and my confidence, a space to breathe and prepare for my next courageous move, my next mark. I am prepared to make crap. And I’m also prepared to soar when one tiny shadow or highlight just comes out of me onto paper exactly right. My hand is older, wiser. Stiffer! More confident, weathered, inquisitive but incredulous, and unabashedly optimistic. I won’t make the art I made 20 years ago, but I’m also not making the art that I can and will make 20 years from now. That’s to be expected. That’s what this thing called art is.
It’s the work.
The thought and the action.
The struggle and the success.
It is my sickness, and it is my cure.
And on and on it goes.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. It is my true belief that we make the world a better place and our experience in it richer if we share our experience together. I do that through food at my restaurant, Smoking Mo’s in Shelton, Washington, and through my story telling here. I deeply thank you for joining me on this adventure, and for giving me the love and encouragement to keep moving forward.