Conversations with Artists and Myself
I was talking to my father recently about a video program he teaches to New Orleans public high school students. One of the program’s administrators had to relocate at the last minute, so my father stepped in as administrator. I asked him how administrating was going and he said it was fine, but it definitely took away from his teaching. Whereas before he was constantly thinking about the teaching component of the program, now his mind is occupied with paperwork and scheduling and other administrative matters. Suddenly it became clear to me that the word “administration” is a perfect word to encapsulate all that we adults have to do to survive in the world. And the concept of the administrative position pulling away from my father’s focus on teaching is the perfect example of the tension between art and survival.
I was walking to work recently with a graphic designer and we were, as usual, discussing the burden of 9-to-5. He had been a freelancer in the past, and he said he feels the tragedy of a full-time position is that it sucks all the adventure and enjoyment out of life. It diminishes the opportunity to ask, “What am I going to do today?” We talked about what would be an ideal balance between work and play. He said he thought three days a week was good. That gave him three days to handle the workplace—financial administration, and enough off time to handle housework—personal administration, and still have enough mental space and empty moments in which to maintain a sense of wonder and surprise in life. As we go about working our jobs, building our careers, acquiring homes and cars, there is an important question to ask: How do I want to spend my days? What is my ideal balance of administration and play? What possessions, obligations or lifestyle choices do I have to alter or obliterate to free me up to make better administrative choices?
A writer friend wrote in to our writing group complaining about her job. “I hate my job, I want to quit,” she wrote. “What do I do?” She got a very detailed response from one of the group members who had recently quit her job and is currently in grad school. In addition to suggesting exactly how the writer could plan to quit her job, the group member made specific suggestions for how the writer could go about improving her job in the meantime. One of the group member’s suggestions was not taking on extra obligations. When she examined her schedule, the writer discovered that she was on approximately eight committees, advisor to another and volunteered with a choir. “Maybe you don’t hate your job,” someone else in the group wrote in. “Maybe you hate all your extracurricular activities.”
So often, we are not even aware of the real culprits eating our time and pulling us away from our play/art. The writer soon wrote in to say she quit four committees and the choir, and in the process remembered a few more extracurricular activities she was involved in. Freeing yourself from superfluous activities not only liberates time, but it frees up valuable headspace. Mental clutter can be just as limiting as no time. Art/play demands a balance of energy and attention.
I remember talking to a family friend about my ideal schedule. At the time, it was eating breakfast, writing for three or four hours, having lunch with friends, returning home to paint, then hanging out for dinner and evening activities. She said she had never thought about how she would ideally like to spend her days. When she did start creating her perfect day, she instantly realized she’d have to disappear a certain chunk of debt to be free enough to make less money and spend her time as she pleases. In other words, she instantly realized the need to adjust her administrative weight to deepen her space/opportunity for play.
When I think about it, I think this whole administration vs. play tension can be used to evaluate all types of relationships. Most certainly, the relationship between the artist and art, but also in personal relationships as well. The relationship of a homeowner and a home. In any relationship, if you are spending more time administrating—negotiating, fighting, struggling, fixing, altering—than you are simply enjoying the presence of that person or object in your life, then something’s out of whack. Certainly every relationship requires some administration, but what is the perfect amount. How much of your energy are you willing to spend administrating? This is the constant question of the artist, and I dare say, this is one of the central questions each person has to resolve in life itself.
Be well. Be love(d).
: : : September 2002 – present : : :
So, the KIS.list has been around for a year. I’d like to thank everyone for their enthusiastic response to the list. I didn’t know what I was doing when I started the list, and to a certain extent, I still don’t. But I know—due to your emails of support and gratitude—that whatever I’m doing means something to you. I am thrilled to be able to create a space for the discussion of the development of art, the struggles of the artist, the spirit of human beings. The things I talk about on the KIS.list are conversations that fascinate me, and it is immensely gratifying that so many of you find satisfaction in them too. Thank you.
I’m going to close out the Acceptance/Rejection O’Meter for 8/01–8/02 and start a new one for 9/02–9/03. I’ve been torn about whether or not to mention the new major change in my life because I don’t intend for this to be a personal space. A lot of people view the KIS.list as a diary, while I don’t view it that way at all. The conversations I have here are intimate, but they are not about my personal life, they are about my writing life and sometimes about traveling and other art forms. I’m not interested in turning this into a personal space, but in reference to the rate at which I will be submitting work in the future and the regularity of the KIS.list in its second year, I will say that I am becoming a mother this month. Due to this life change, I am not sure how rigorous I will be able to be, especially during the first few months, about maintaining the list. I will certainly be submitting less work for publication, and will probably be a bit more erratic with the KIS.list. The list will continue, though I am not sure exactly when it will resume and with what frequency.
No acceptances or rejections this month.
Rate of Acceptance/Rejection
August 2001 – August 2002
Publications: Acceptances = 6; Rejections = 6
Grants/Fellowships: Acceptances = 0; Rejections = 1
Residencies/Workshops: Acceptances = 0; Rejections = 4