To everything its time

Terri Windling has been unleashing some incredible essays lately. Like this one, for example, on blogging. In it she talks about time, among other things, and how precious a thing it is — especially when there isn’t enough of it to go around. When Terri says “It’s almost always difficult for artists in any field (except, perhaps, for a very privileged few) to balance the time needed for creative work with all the other demands of life”, I — and many others — know exactly what she means.

There is a flip side to this, of course, and it’s one I’ve been dealing with for longer than I care to admit. When the demands of creative work override the time needed to live a life well and consciously, that also creates an imbalance and to be honest, sometimes I’m not sure which is worse. I’m talking about the time required to tend the hearth, the actual hearth of the home and/or soul. Whether or not you have a literal hearth doesn’t matter. It could be your hearth, it could be your studio, it could be your kitchen, it could be the entire house in which you live. It could even be yourself.

I’ve got this vision of a crazed artist surrounded by the tools of their trade, releasing gorgeous works, day after day, into a world that has fallen to ruin around them while they weren’t looking. Only when it is finally time to stop, step away, to go out and recharge their spirit, do they realise that the outer well is full of dust.

This will mean something different for everyone. For me it means that the piles have piled up, the dishes need doing, the laundry is overflowing the basket, the garden hasn’t been tended in months, the oven not turned on in weeks and I can’t remember the last time I sat down and had a moment of peace with myself. The spirit must be nurtured, and sometimes that nurturing comes from what seem like the most mundane things. Even worse is when the demands of a creative life take time away from the people I love and admire. When one is too busy meeting the demands of a creative life to say hello to a neighbor, to post a quick comment on a colleague’s blog, to send an email to a cherished friend — that is when I must stop and reassess.

That is the point I call critical mass, the point where if we don’t beg the muse for surcease, we jeopardise the creativity itself. Funny how that works. For me this is just as important as finding the time for the creative work, because quite frankly, a world gone to ruin is the very thing I’m trying to prevent.

  • Mo Crow

    Having just recently surfaced with finishing an all consuming 7 year project I am finding time to have coffee with old friends, do the housework, weed the garden & write responses on blogs while gathering the energy for the next big dream thing. I have come to love the procrastination phase of the creative process, these little lulls in the flow make life a bit more civilized!

  • Von

    I call it catching up with myself!

  • janeyolen

    Oh, this catches in my throat and fairly chokes me. The whole time quandry. I am older than most of my wonderful creator-friends and at 72 I heard the tiny hummingbird wings of time constantly in my ear.

    Widowed five years ago, I have an incredible hollow in my life after a wonderful and wonder-filled marriage of 46 years.

    So these two pieces of time deprivation are constants in my life as I try to write down the best things in my head before they are gone. Never mind the laundry, the garden, the mail in piles. This hearth-tending as you put it must be done and done well. Why else am I still here?


  • Terri Windling

    Amen to what you and Jane have said.

  • Lunar Hine

    It is a balancing of blessings. Do I devote myself utterly to the wellbeing of my husband and daughter, or do I succumb to the muse’s seduction and unleash my creatrix to roam? In the absence of any means of choosing, I split my weeks in half and do my best at both. My house is less clean, meals are prepared faster and with less care, my girl finds more fluff to eat, my novel births new words at the rate of elephants and I am deeply unready for my art exhibition, BUT I am caring for the whole of my life; the whole of my heart; the whole of my soul. It is worth the constant adrenaline of this highwire act to know that I am escaping that nauseating hunger which eats me if I neglect my people or my muse. I totter on…

  • Erzebet

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this: “In the absence of any means of choosing…”

    There really is no way to silence the muse, or to fully ignore the demands of the rest of it. Finding and keeping our balance on the highwire is crucial, and thank goodness for the people who dust us off when we slip.

  • Erzebet

    I completely agree with you about the little lulls. A seven year project sounds enormous! You deserve some time to procrastinate after that.

  • Erzebet

    Jane, I’m thrilled to see you comment here, and you’ve reminded me of how precious time is, no matter how we spend it. Thank you.