Another Sunday morning. I have a kind of pit in my stomach that’s common these days. It’s associated with all the stress of just getting by, keeping a roof over my head, doing my best work at work and trying to progress in several ways, e.g. as a human being who conducts themselves well, is fair to themselves and helpful to others, e.g. trying to progress as an artist, writer, lecturer and musician by never being complacent and always taking risks and experimenting (yes, these are perhaps over-familiar values but I’m still saddled with them, aren’t you?)
I wish my belly didn’t ache and that I slept more soundly, but ultimately there seems little I can do to quiet my anxieties. Long, long go I noted that the best thing about me as an artist, writer, lecturer and musician – i.e. the fact that I can generate a volcanic lava flow of ideas when necessary, is also the worst thing about me as a neurotic human being- i.e. the phrase ‘what’s eating you?’ was custom-made for me. I find it hard to switch-off an anxiety once it starts gnawing away inside me.
Anxieties are SUCH a distraction and yet we always seem to be able to find time for them, to MAKE time for them, even if that means setting aside the small hours of the night for them. And what would we be without them? God forbid, perhaps something like the careless, carefree characters we sometimes encounter in life who, not suffering from the affliction of concern, stomp all over us, apparently unaware of what they are doing and surely unaware that there is something in the world known as ‘somebody else’s point of view’, or ‘somebody else’s feelings’.
Thus, I forgive myself my anxieties in the belief that they make me a more considerate and empathetic person. They also help me keep slim I have noticed, as, no-matter how well I eat or how little exercise I do, those anxieties simply burn off the calories and, as above, eat and gnaw away at any surplus fat that might try to establish itself around my abdomen.
Artists are, I like to think, unusually conscientious creatures. If you’ve ever found yourself picking up the very last speck of plaster dust from the floor of a gallery, 3-minutes before the opening time of the show, you’ll know what I mean, just as you will know what I mean if you have ever recorded and mixed the final mix of a song in a studio, or completed the umpteenth ‘final’ draft of an arty article for publication in a referee journal. There is something about art that involves a heightened sense of resolution and comprehensive completion, but this, again, can set you at odds with a world populated by people who may have never experienced this special kind of meticulous rigour.
And being ‘set at odds’ can certainly be a painful business. After all, we might do our very best to assert our own high standards in all we do in life only to find that unpredictable, and even incomprehensible external forces, in the guise of someone else’s unfathomable logic, are more than capable of diluting, distorting or destroying our best-laid plans.
The closest thing to a solution, I suppose, that I have found, is a careful mix of isolation and milieu. i.e. by isolating yourself as much as possible you are less likely to have to encounter alien logics capable of completely missing your own points and their value. Milieu sounds contradictory to isolation, but what I mean is that we, inevitably, and from the outset of our journey into, along and through the arts, choose the circles in which we feel safe to move, where we will feel understood and supported. These choices are not easily made however, and it can take years, and yes, it can take decades to find just the right milieu and just the right degree of isolation – if the world will allow all of that – for us to be able to survive, and if lucky, even thrive in the arts.