Working alone can sometimes feel like you are hurtling through space, ricocheting from idea to idea, eyes forward. When you get a moment to pause and look behind you the trajectory has already faded from sight and you are just there, wherever you are. After some months of traveling life in that manner I am starting to slow a bit and put down markers. As someone who has spent a lifetime bucking structure, the need to instill it for myself doesn't exactly come naturally, but it has revealed itself as a need nonetheless. Monthly essays will be one small step towards making a habit of reflection. A handhold, a record, a repetitive motion. A monthly newsletter as well. One looking forward, one looking back.
September is my birth month and so a new years of sorts. I go into each September with resolutions and a deep, deep, LL Bean catalogue, back to school craving for plaid. Writing here is one of my September resolutions.
Some weeks ago a friend asked for insight on balancing a work life and a creative life. It was a timely question- I had just started working very part time again and was wondering how everything would shake out. My initial reaction was to say to her "I don't know you just do it!!" which is honest and really... not helpful.
Creative work (and, I think it's okay to call it work, because work does not mean anything bad) has been a part of my days for as long as I can remember. When I was very little I would stumble out of bed and plop down at my art table next to the kitchen door and get to work. These days I've more or less returned to that habit. I roll out of bed and wander to the living room/studio where I try to remember and write down all of the good ideas I had as I was falling asleep. I knit before breakfast, I pull out fabrics and I get busy in my head. Then I wake Tavi up and she makes me coffee. When I was younger I worked full time away from home, sometimes at two or three jobs. For those years I crammed my creative work into every other waking hour: I knit before I walked to work, I kept a sketchbook and drew constantly, I focused on portable handcrafts. I wasn't terribly social and I didn't do much else besides work and work. I was industrious and I was younger and I had something to prove and I was mad a lot. Maybe the best advice I could give is "get mad", but that will rot your stomach eventually so it's not a lasting solution. The best thing I did for myself in those years was save money for the future. I didn't have a plan, but 8 years later I had that money to live off of when my source of income dried up and I am thankful to that mad kid who cashiered at the co-op 7 days a week for minimum wage.
Maybe the trick is recognizing that your life won't look like anyone else's. I've never had a lot of qualms about that (although, funny enough, I find myself pausing now and then as I watch my peers have children and buy houses and I can clearly see where my life's trajectory splintered away from that tract). You might work jobs that aren't your career, while your career looms un-named in a basket next to the couch (and your parents panic as loudly or quietly as they are inclined to). You might learn to cook instead of eating out with your 9-to-5 buddies. You might eat a lot of rice. You might wake up at 5AM to work before work, you might work while your friends are going out or while your lover is sleeping. You might work on the weekends, you might always and forever be the only one with Tuesdays free and zero other spare time so you just work on Tuesdays too. You might be investing in expensive new materials while your peers make down-payments on houses. You might live in an unconventional space and you might live there a lot longer than you anticipated. You might not make any money for a whole month, and then you might make double what you need and blow it all on Lithuanian linen and wind up just as broke (ahem). It's okay. The trick is knowing that you can quit anytime, become a dental hygienist or work in a bank, but the trick is also realizing that you can't really do that, that you won't survive this life if you do, and no one knows if you'll get another one.