I recently saw a San Diego Repertory Theatre production, A Weekend with Pablo Picasso, directed by Todd Salovey. There is much to say about this marvelous one-man show, starring Herbert Siguenza—he plays Picasso. It is certainly a worthy pick for artists – of any kind – in search of inspiration. Yet I want to focus on one Picasso’s comments in the play (I have no idea if the actual artist actually said it or not). Picasso says something to the effect that a painter should paint for a living—not try to support his painting by working in another profession. In other words, a painter paints. Of course, most of us don’t have the luxury being able to earn a decent paycheck through some kind of art form. And those who do attempt to hold on to a viable job, as we pursue our dream on the side, face a number of challenges.
My biggest problem has always been the nuisance of fits and starts, a form of debilitating impotence. Time isn’t everything. One of my writer friends once warned me that a sea of time doesn’t necessarily mean a writer will get more done. She thought a challenging schedule could actually spur a writer to get down to it, be more prolific, even. To her mind, a tight schedule left no room for procrastination. Still, I have wondered how much more work I would have completed by now if I hadn’t had to make a living. It can be frustrating to reach out for a shooting star—feel the thrill of a new direction—only to watch it fizzle out.
To be sure, I am usually taken aback when a fresh sense of momentum leans into my writing—momentum that can feel like heat or heightened living. It can appear effortless—alive—like a true reason for living. Then, somehow, there is just too much to do, and all of that energy ends up yellowing in a drawer. If a lot of time passes, detachment disorder sets in, leaving only a shadowy memory of what was once enthusiasm. Of course, this enthusiasm might make a welcome return to begin a new project, even as it betrays the work that never came to fruition.
To ameliorate this type of struggle, I have found it is a good idea to fight for completion some of the time. Otherwise, the entire vow to write will threaten to slide into the garage, only to wait patiently for the next trip to Goodwill. Sometimes, I just set a specific goal and make that my sole reason for writing—instead of, say, well-crafted lines or crisp imagery. I’m much happier, though, when it feels like I’m working inside a kiln, and I don’t need any reason for writing except the pure joy of it. That phenomenon doesn’t come about every day. Besides, a startling sense of joy is tough to run through the juicer when the nitty-gritty hassles of work demand to be the top five priorities.
School is back in session, and I haven’t written anything new in weeks. My house, my mind, and my schedule have been too cluttered. As I already noted, I did make it to the theater. I sat in that darkened space watching Picasso dance before a set designed with the stuff of creativity—old shoes, vases, bicycle parts, paintbrushes, canvases, bread, and wine—and I could only feel envy for the life this artist must have led. For I am doing what he apparently warned against: I am living two lives, ultimately veering away from the source. I guess it’s time to start to learn how to fit these lives together.