My time at MacDowell taught me a lot about myself and how I work and live. Every few days I'll post a simple lesson I learned in the woods outside Peterborough, NH.
When you have every hour of every day to do with as you will, you give yourself permission to try things without needing to offer yourself a convincing rationale. David Licata illustrated this in his blog post, Get Thee to an Artist Residency in his discussion of playing the guitar, something he ordinarily would not have done publicly, but which he found himself sharing with his fellow colonists at MacDowell.
I was happy to indulge similar impulses myself during my time at MacDowell. I learned to knit, and as luck would have it, scored as my knitting teacher one of the finest and most outrageous artists I'm aware of using needle and yarn. For some of Lisa Anne Auerbach's subversive creations, check out her website.
But I digress. Not only did I try to learn how to knit, I also reignited my relationship to the piano. I actually practiced piano, something I hadn't done in a long while.
I also allowed myself the luxury of keeping a journal. I should explain. I had up until this year, always maintained a kind of rigid reactionary anti-journalling stance for myself, thinking, mistakenly, that to do so would somehow be diverting limited resources of writing energy into something non-professional. Well, well, well. As more than one friend pointed out, what the hell is a blog other than a public sort of journal?
Some personal problems this year pushed me to keep a journal out of what at the time felt like necessity. Now, I'm convinced that my bias against it was completely wrongheaded. As Dr. Julia Mayo points out in an interview she gave for me for THUNDER EVERY DAY, some things in life, when you divide them, actually multiply.
So among my resolutions upon re-entry, is this. If I am struck by an impulse to try something or lurch out in an unexpected direction, I will give it a try BEFORE passing judgment.
Case in point. The subject of THUNDER EVERY DAY, Larry Stanton, was a portrait artist. To better get inside his head, I've started taking Life Drawing classes. One might see this as a waste of time. I see it as my unconscious guiding me.
Part of a consistent devotion to a life as an artist, then, it would seem, is keeping open to such unexpected impulses and, when possible, indulging them. At least a bit.
Who knows how (or if) this will pay off? For now, I'm simply going with my gut.