Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Post-VSC residency: attempts at decompression

I haven't written about my residency at Vermont Studio Center. Part of it is because I wanted to be present there, to be wholly present without having to worry about documenting it. The other part was that there was just too much happening, too quickly. Lots of writing. A lot. 

As I write this, I am asking myself: who is my audience? Is it those with whom I just spent a transformative two weeks at Vermont Studio Center? Is it those writers and artists who weren’t there but understand the value of a residency and its importance and its effects? Is it those who are not artists but everyday folks who are in my life regularly? I don’t know. Audience is important here because it determines how I speak about my time at VSC. What if I made the audience myself? What would that look like?

As I write this and it approaches the time when my children will wake up, I feel a subtle creeping of anticipation. A slight hint of stress. The house will open up very soon and send chaotic energy into the air. An environment which is most certainly not conducive to writing. At least not for me.

The last two weeks have been heaven. Truly. As corny as that word might be, it really was. It felt luxurious and amazingly necessary at the same time. To be tucked away from the world and only expected to create art: such a generous gift. To be surrounded by not just writers, but visual artists as well: inspiring and encouraging. To be around people who respect and understand the creative process and the different ways in which it manifests is, to me, astounding. I could get up in the middle of a meal and say that I’m onto something, that I’m on a roll – and no one would question it. No one would expect an explanation. And it wouldn’t be seen as rude. Everyone would nod as if to send me on my way. We all honored each individual’s creative process, our creative ebbs and flows.

This is not the first time I’ve spent a block of time with writers, but it is the first time that my process has been honored –and supported-- for what it is, however it is, no questions asked. It’s also the first time I’ve spent with visual artists, which has been incredible. To notice similarities in our creative processes –it seems to me we’re all looking to uncover, explore, and discover things we’re intrigued by—but also to observe the differences (many of them obvious – like medium). The difference in creative process –the concreteness of visual art—inspired me to create some of my own visual art, to explore other modes of expression which lent themselves, later on, to my writing. I love how all of these creative modes have weaved its way into me. I feel like my writing is much richer because of it.

But now that I am back in my regular life, I am having a very difficult time re-adjusting.

How do I sustain this creative energy when my VSC peeps have returned to their homes and I live in an artistic desert? I worry that I will fall back into that pit of suburban existence in which I am merely an adjunct and a taxi driver, a cook and a laundress. Of course, I have the wherewithal to not let this happen. I just have to really make it happen. To exert the energy to move forward and to be deliberate about boundaries. But in practical terms, what does this look like? Do I sign up for a writer’s circle? Do I try to schedule monthly Skype dates with writer-friends? When do I read? I struggle with this last one all of the time. Reading feels like a luxury, not like work, though I know that it is very much an essential part of my work. How do I read without guilt? (This is some big therapy work I need to do here. We won’t make the obvious connect to Catholicism, will we? Oh wait. I just did. So why not throw in the obvious Asian expectations of productivity while we’re at it? Yeah.) I don’t know any answers to these questions. I guess the best thing for me to do is to just try things out and see what happens. Better to try than to remain static.

Also, I am planning to transform my home office into a writing studio. What’s the difference? Anything that is *not* related to writing or anything creative will be purged from this space and put elsewhere. This will be my sacred space in which I can create whatever the hell I want. Or where I can just read. Without guilt. (Hopefully.) I want to follow the examples of the visual artists by having a singular space called a studio in which I create art, nothing more.

On that note, I will head off into the mid-morning to rustle up some grub for the kiddos. Maybe make another cup of coffee. Or, if I’m being honest, go take a nap as I am utterly exhausted. Creating art, writing that many solid-keeper poems in such a short amount of time is a very large emotional investment. Of course I’m exhausted. My VSC friends would agree. And they would nod, sending me off to my studio to take a nap. :)

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