MAKING THE WORK // The Clocks Inside Us
Recently, I read an essay by C.J. Gall that had this spine-straightening line: “There’s too much talk about the ‘biological clock’ and not enough talk about the other clocks ticking inside us.”
'Yes' I thought.
I’ve never related to the biological clock issue the way the majority of other women have. I’ve always maintained that my biological clock only sings Barry White songs. But another clock ticking inside me? Check.
Every night, when I wake up and pad from the bedroom to the bathroom to go pee I hear: got-to get-the book-done got-to get-the book-done. At particularly bad times, it feels like being chased by someone in flip-flops; I swear that ticking clocks and flip-flops sound the same to me. The person in flip-flops will even berate me, like a hysterical customer at Walmart: What do you think of all those wasted days of your twenties now? Do you know how old Melville was when he wrote Moby Dick?
Thank the lord, my ability to write a book won’t time out with my—I shudder to say it—ovaries. If I’m lucky, the only thing that’ll stop me writing is croaking.
Disclosure: It’ll be my fortieth birthday this Saturday. I’m completely fine with this. I don’t think forty is old—though I’ve noticed that just recently my Pa has finally stopped saying that I’m not old enough to drink, which makes me realize that my age is gaining some heft.
What bothers me is that I was such a late-starter. From age six or so, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I took my time doing much about it. In my twenties I wrote bad poetry (bad as in erotic poems titled “Soft Burning” bad), a couple of short stories, a few freelance articles and that was it. I also worked in literary admin, which Julia Cameron would call being a “shadow artist”.
When I was thirty-one I got serious about writing. But I still floundered. When I first met A. five-and-a-half years ago, my writing life was unformed and I had trouble finding focus. A., who is ten years older than me, would cheerfully say, “Don’t worry, that focus will come the moment you realize you’re going to die.” He’d had the realization around the time he turned forty.
So here I am, three days away from forty and I’ve put my focus into writing a book. And yes, this sense of purpose is in part due to hearing the clock inside of me that says our time here is finite. Funnily enough, it really hit home when A. turned fifty in February. ‘How is it that I’m old enough to have a betrothed who is that age?’ I kept thinking. ‘Where has the time gone?’
I’ve begun strategizing based on knowing there is only so much time in our lives and only so many things we can write. I didn’t think like that even just a year ago. It might sound glum, but it actually means that I feel more pro and get more things done.
The next step seems to be to harness the energy of the ticking clock. As a dramatic metaphor, the ticking clock provides suspense. Suspense is a feeling or state of nervousness or excitement caused by wondering what will happen. The trick is to embrace a kind of calm excitement, not knicker-knotting, hair-losing nervousness about what the future holds. To re-appropriate the Walmart person in ticky-tocky flip-flops into a sort of helpful friend running alongside saying, Annie Proulx didn’t publish her first novel until she was fifty-seven. You go, girl.
CULTURE CRUSH // Making Your Life as an Artist by Andrew Simonet
I’ve been thinking about hobbits this week. I’m not really into hobbits per se, but they have a trait that’s pretty great: they give gifts on their own birthdays. I’d mail y’all cupcakes and goodie bags on my upcoming birthday if I could. What I can do instead is direct you creative folks to someone else’s gift to the world. It’s a free ebook by Andrew Simonet called Making Your Life as an Artist.
Simonet is a choreographer, writer, founder of Artist U and former co-director of a New York-based dance theatre company. It’s his mission to put tools in the hands of artists to help them survive. Over at the Artist U website it says, “We want 100,000 people to read this book.” There have been 44,076 downloads so far.
Making Your Life as an Artist “takes a serious and at times mordantly humorous look at the creative process...” It also challenges “silly and damaging myths about artists.” For example, the one about artists being bad with money:
“Artists are amazing with money; they usually don’t have enough of it. Through barter, reuse, problem-solving, and resourcefulness, artists produce large-scale projects with very little cash. Making art with limited resources requires incredible financial skill.”
Even if it wasn’t his birthday when he launched it, Simonet has done a very generous hobbit-like thing by giving us this gift. Now, go get your copy here.
P.S. Not an artist? Here’s something for everyone: The New Yorker online has a new look and they’re offering free access to all their content (including archives) for the rest of the summer. My recommendation that complements this week’s mini-mag is a 2008 Malcolm Gladwell article called “Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity?” It’s a gooder (and now I want to read a biography on Cézanne).
MINOR OBSESSIONS // Totem Animals
I believe wholeheartedly that a person needs at least one totem animal. I was born under the sign of Leo, in the Year of the Tiger, which means my totem animal is the Liger, which is one big cat. Rawr.
But I have another totem animal too: the rabbit. It’s been given to me for non-astrological, zoomorphic reasons by a number of people. For instance, once, while having Chinese food with my friend and her two boys one of them looked at me and said, rather drily, “Did you know you look like a bunny rabbit right now?” It must have been a certain je ne sais twitch of my nose or a bink-bink of my eyes because I wasn’t nibbling a carrot. Another friend, a milliner, once made me a rabbit-eared fascinator to wear at Easter and everyone said how natural it looked on me.
All of this is to say that while I believe myself to be a Liger, I’ve also developed an affinity for cottontails. A., on the other hand, is the man who declared as a child that when he grew up he wanted to be “an artist or a dog.” So we basically live a happy life as two house pets.
Recently, I came across an article about Amy Sedaris and her bunnies. Amy Sedaris, if you don’t already know her, is an actress, comedian, author and sister to David Sedaris. She’s been a bunny-person since the 90s and gives her rabbits one-hour massages (!). When she misses her bunnies who’ve already passed on, she writes them letters and tells them about her day. She also helps people—like Stephen Colbert—learn to take proper care of their “fashion rabbits”. What’s not to love about that? You can read about Sedaris and her rabbits here.