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.