Suffering and the Lonely Artist

I have this persistent day dream: I get to rent a small cabin in the woods.  Nothing but me, my wordprocessor, Dan with some computerthingy to keep him busy during the day, and a couple of books.  During the day I’d just write.  In the evenings Dan and I would walk to a small restaurant nearby and have dinner.

In my dream the cabin is somewhere like Oregon, so it drizzles, and there’s a fireplace.  (Hey, I grew up with drizzle.  Drizzle is comfort weather.)

Would I want the dream to go on forever?  Well, no.  Two weeks would be enough to get a ton of work done.  And by that time I’d be missing the boys and the cats and ready to come home.

Right now the chances of my dream coming true – EVER – seem less than one in a million.  Also, right now my life couldn’t be further away from that dream.

It seems like most of the time by the time I get up in the morning I’m already late for three or for things, and when I go to bed I have unfinished tasks still to complete.

Part of this is because I was already more or less fully booked and then I added editing stories and getting my back list ready to go up.  Now that has nowhere to go.  Plus the house has been falling apart a piece at a time, which, of course, also causes other issues.  (Money!)  To complete the circle, the stress is making my eczema go feral, which means I’m one LONG itch.  (Fine time I picked, to stop sniffing glue.)

Almost every writer I know has this sort of dream and most of us have a “for life” type of dream too, called “when I make it.”  “When I make it, I’ll have someone fetch me coffee, so I don’t have to get up.”  “When I make it, I won’t have to clean the house, so I can write all day.”  “When I make it–”

The problem is, face it, if we got our wish we’d probably go stone-cold-blocked.  Oh, maybe not right away. Or maybe we’d get over it, eventually.  I mean, when Rebecca Lickiss and I attended the Oregon workshop – twelve? – years ago, we had little kids.  We couldn’t understand why it was so hard to work in the workshop room, in the nice, quiet atmosphere.

And then we realized both of us were so used to being interrupted and to hearing the kids in the background at all times that after five minutes we got antsy in the “it’s too silent, what are they up to?” sense.

That didn’t exactly solve the problem, but at least it told us where it was coming from.  And these days I can too work without being interrupted by a childish howl every five minutes.

On the other hand, some part of my brain seems to only loosen up and get creative when I’m engaged in activities I hate.  My first saleable short story was written in my head while ironing.  A Few Good Men hit me between the eyes, voice and all, while cleaning the bathroom.  Walking isn’t too bad for ideas, particularly long walks in areas I know, particularly in bad weather.  Why in bad weather?  Fewer people out and nobody I need to make eye contact with.

Activities I find interesting, like, say, cooking, talking to my husband; drawing; visiting museums make me completely unable to write.

So… if this writer got her wish – would she be hyper productive? Or completely unable to write?

I look at Heinlein’s life where he lurched from health issue to personal issue to financial crisis for much of it, and I look at the stuff he wrote.  Would he have written better had he been healthy and stable?  (Assuming he hadn’t stayed in the Navy.)  Or wouldn’t he have written at all?  Did we lose great books by him?  Or did we gain them because he was tortured.

I don’t know.  All I can say is that right now I’d like to give it a try for two weeks and I promise I wouldn’t let it spoil me.

But since it doesn’t seem likely, I think I’ll go to bed early instead, and tomorrow I’ll see if I can change my writing place and I hope that will help.
Goodnight sun, goodnight moon.  Goodnight blog comenters.

7 thoughts on “Suffering and the Lonely Artist

  1. I wish I could get all the responses to this post without making a comment here. [Wink]

  2. Hopefully, changing your writing place will help. You know me. I have to have a place for writing that is separate from my “work” space. I also have to have a separate computer for it. Fingers crossed you open the writing channels soon and we gets us more Sarah stuff to read 😉

  3. I’d say something like “reorganize and prioritize” except when I try that, when I’m really over loaded, the reorganization becomes my excuse for not working. And however well prioritized, the jobs just won’t do themselves. Wretched things.

    1. In grad school we called it active vs. passive procrastination. Passive procrastination was napping or staring at the wall, or playing solitaire. Active procrastination could include, but was/is not limited to: sorting one’s books, organizing one’s notes, tidying the desk, proofreading (especially a bibliography), reading material not related to the project, reading history completely unrelated to your field, and re-typing notes. All are tangentially related to what you are supposed to be doing, and none of them will get done what you are supposed to be doing.

      1. Yeah, that sounds familiar. The higher the pressure, the more likely my procrastination will be active rather than passive. There’s a mid point when I _can_ get everything done on time that I don’t procrastinate. It seems to be that when I _can’t_ possibly do it all on time, that I start really wasting time. I much prefer the leisurly passive procratination, when there are few if any time constraints. Mind you, I’m still not working optimally, but it’s less stressful.

  4. What Pam and Amanda said. I know that I always get more done in a stolen hour than a gifted day…
    Unfortunately this has fallen by the wayside due to Real Life Studies on Tax laws, but eh, what can you do? Something’s gotta give, and it’s usually not the coursework or the family obligations…

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