I am a person of many talents,skills,interests and proclivities.Flat-cleaning,however,does not fit with ease into any of those categories.I am rather at odds with the concept of scrubbing and shining and dusting.It disturbs my mind to think that anyone could find true enjoyment and contentment in such a heinous necessity.Yet power and kudos to those fitting that description:you must have a mental component that I lack.If it was merely a matter of grudging the occasional upper-hand to a wily adversary,I would suck it up and cede the occasional victory when necessary.Round 1 goes to you, dirty dishes. Make the most of it.
However,it sinks deeper than that, as it must for many artists. This is not to say that to be creative is to be a slob. I am sure that there are those who take especial enjoyment from wielding a feather duster or cleaning toilets,their surroundings always meeting the highest requirements of cleanliness and order.I,for one, am engaged in a constant struggle with time and priority and disinterest.Trying to find a satisfying place for diverse and demanding writing projects,outside employment,and cleaning is like juggling a bowling ball,an orange and a monkey. They have absolutely no organic connection but,somehow,must be made into a cohesive whole.
The problem–and that is exactly what it is–becomes all the worse when the muse is on a sustained visit.I become feverish when full of creativity,and single-minded to a dangerous degree.If I lived alone,it would be easy enough to slack off indefinitely,doing only the bare-bones chores until the muse again took flight.(Even then, with time stretching before me like an endless ocean of calm,I am not exactly obsessively tidy.)I can sit,slump,and contort myself before the keyboard for hours at a time,barely aware of the outside world but for the dog at my feet and the cat by my side.I am in what I can only hope is the early stage of a long and brilliant bout with creativity.I have been so full of ideas,and have had the empowering luck and guts of follow-through,these last few months that I see no possibility but that of success and endurance,and continuing fecundity.This will only add to my usual troubling choices:sweep the floor or write an article,clean the bathtub or start a story?
I realize that this is an ages-old dilemma for artists,especially women.Trying to balance,however perilously,outside demands and the creative impulse is something with which we have all contended.As there is no easy answer,no blanket panacea, we will doubtless continue to deal with this for a long time.I am not singing a song that no one has heard before.A hundred years hence it will likely strike an all too familiar chord.The words may be altered to suit the singer,but the refrain is the same.From Elizabeth Gaskell to Virginia Woolf to Sylvia Plath,the path has been trod by women (and men) of brilliancy and capability,by turns armed with confidence and disarmed by doubt.
Unless you are hermit-ed away in a cave,writing with the ash from your fire,there are so many factors that go into making up a writing life.They are not all glamorous,enticing and invigorating.They are mundane.They are frustrating.They never cease to cloud your mind and cut into your creativity.Even with modern conveniences,they are here to stay.How we deal with them differs from person to person.Hell,how I handle it varies schizophrenically, depending on: the day,my mood,what there is to be conquered,how many ideas and words are floating around in my head,how tired or energized I am,whether or not I have social plans or if I have,at that given moment,any confidence in my ability as a writer or human being.
This balancing act is a topic that will recur time and again on ASPL, as it is an integral part of the complex existence of this writer,and so many others.Upon realizing the desire–the urge–to write,and pulling up the ability from deep within yourself that makes it all possible, all externals do not suddenly,gloriously fall away,leaving your time unfettered.The writing life does not open itself wide to you:it has to be grasped,subdued and continuously commanded.There are new battles every day, and they are not always won.The maw of the real world is always gaping,always reaching for you, wanting to steal back what precious little time that you managed to take from it. Yet I acknowledge that I would not want to live wholly in either place.I feel like Persephone,caught between two worlds that are,in this case,neither entirely darkness or light but a constantly altering,swirling mixture:and,instead of being allowed the reliability and slight repose of 6 months in one world,6 in the other I have the awkward,tiring challenge of rocking back and forth,with one foot perpetually in each place.
Lest it sound like all ache and doom,the payoff to the writing life is the best thing that I know of:it is a thing of thrilling,comforting beauty.Although someone I am very close to insists that to compromise is to lose the battle at hand as well as part of your soul,the subtle dance of compromise is the very thing that makes my artistic existence possible.To be all artist would give too much weight and power to an over-riding selfishness that would eat up everything of external importance,including my own complexity and the love of those that I love.To be all civilian would mean to deny the very things that set me apart as an individual,and would sap a large part of the strength that I have for living.My small contribution to the world and to those I care for is shaped from the best parts of both incarnations.The struggle to find balance is ultimately a sign that I am paying heed,albeit imperfectly, to all of my needs. It means that I am doing something right.