Today you will write 1000 words. Because you are insatiable for these words. You will write them because it will fulfill a desire in you.
I spent last weekend re-reading some texts, in search of inspiration. I’m on the final push to complete my first draft. Two chapters left to write before…I go back to the beginning and make my way through it all over again. I imagine I have five or six more drafts left to go after that before it’s even remotely close to where I want it to be. Every draft requires urgency, even if that urgency has a different source each time. So again and again, I flip through the pages of the books on my shelf, looking for a little more fire.
Last spring, I used every single stinking airline mile I had been saving up for years and flew to Hong Kong to see an old friend. My third day there, still rattled from my jet lag, I decided to visit some galleries, the experience of which usually calms me. I ended up at an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’s work.
Bourgeois is best known for her sculptures and installations – perhaps you’ve seen her iconic spiders before – but this show represented works on paper and holograms as well. The holograms in particular stunned me: images of petite chairs swathed in blood red light, floating, nearly haunted, in an otherwise pitch-black space. Fantastic, dream-like, but also shocking. She made these holograms, by the way, in her eighties! I remember thinking: Well, now I know her a little bit better. Now I know a little bit more of her truth. A corner into her mind, hovering in a darkened room.
The gallery was distributing a brief but beautiful booklet that contained an interview conducted over a period of time in the late 1980s. I was struck by a few excerpts:
“To make art is to wake up in a state of craving, a craving to discharge resentment, rage. It’s not a linear progression; it goes like a clock; every day, when you reach a certain spot on the clock, it recurs It’s a certain rhythm occurring every day. And the making of art has a curative effect. A tension you are under disappears, dramatically.”
“The artist has been given a gift. This word comes back all the time. It is the gift of being at ease with your unconscious and trusting it. It is the ability immediately to short-circuit the conscious and to have direct access to the deeper perceptions of the unconscious This is a gift because such awareness is useful, allowing you to know yourself, especially your limitations.”
“I love sculpture eternally, because sculpture is the only thing that challenges me. But it is also not enough. If I have expressed today what I wanted to express, good, it’s true for a minute, but then I have to prove myself again. So, I start a new one.”
Every time I read these words I laugh and think: we’re cursed! Bourgeois is speaking of the compulsiveness of being an artist. We get up every day and do the work because that is our job but also because there is an eternal fire flickering inside us, forcing us to do so. There is no casual dismissal of that tension; in fact, we cannot ignore it. Bourgeois makes the creative process sound difficult – and often it is, certainly. We must push through the difficulties though, for the ease is awaiting us, and by that, I mean the ease of our hearts, at last, when we know that we are done with our work.
Tonight’s chat guest over at Loyalty Books is Megan Giddings, who has written one of my favorite debut novels of the year, Lakewood. Megan has asked that we consider donating to this important organization.
Go, now, and ease your hearts.