Determined to Suck #7: Artist Hell

DTS7

The artist’s process is deeply confusing in that you may say you make art, or you are an Artist, but I’m coming to think that really, we allow art to happen through us. Anything else is forced and leaves us feeling hollow and empty. Art is an act of trust- allowing inspiration or muse to work through you and trying to put aside the judgmental brain while you execute. The other part of the process is not having a goddamn process, I guess. It’s the part where your uninspired and you want to smash your head against walls as you walk down your hallway.

I realized today that in the past I ignored my creative dry-spells. I would just party, or hang out on the internet but both of those activities are addictions that I was never good at managing. And this time around they feel gross. Here in NYC I’m performing often enough to feel stagnant because I don’t have a new act out.

I tweeted the other day about how I was coming to terms with calling myself an artist. Even more so considering myself anything more than just a burlesque performer. But in the last few years (and even more recently) other latent parts of my abilities have been called into major action, like producing, singing, hosting and painting (though painting is the thing I consider myself the least active in and certainly the least good at). I consider myself alright in most of these activities, but I feel like age and experience (like 20+ years experience) are what truly makes you proficient in any of these arenas. Sometimes I just want to be 50, no joke. My voice will have matured awesomely, and my performing style will have matured as well. Hopefully I’ll still like bourbon and cigars and occasionally strip (I plan on looking like I’m in my 30’s then thankyouverymuch).

I’ve had plenty of time to think about this because currently I’m in artist hell. After returning home from a glorious time in Europe and specifically at the Stockholm Burlesque Festival, I withdrew into a cocoon that consisted of staring at walls, going to the gym (70% of when I should have been there), walking my dogs, long naps and binge watching Supernatural. None of my time was spent making art, save doing my job at night at my regular shows in the the week. Introvertedness paired with the loss of your muse makes for mighty fun times. I cried a lot too.

Until 3 days ago I was certain my well had dried up. I spent almost a month in panic about art. Everyone else was fucking making art. My husband is pumping out awesome art right now, my peers are making new acts, and…..I need to write a song, finish two acts and try to keep up my intention to paint, which after my return seemed like I would never return to again.

How can I be considered an artist if I don’t feel like bloody making anything?

So I painted this shitty thing you see above me. Well, I drew then painted. It was….nice to feel like I was doing something even though all I was doing was creating something I didn’t aesthetically like. The paint spread and and dipping the brushes was soothing. I lasted for about 10 minutes before I decided that staring at a wall or really anything else was better.

How can I be considered an artist if when I sit down to make something I want to get right back up?

Ugh.

In my smarter moments yesterday I revisited the two acts I need to finish and decided to focus on procuring the materials needed and funnily enough it catapulted me into act research, which was a nice feeling. I even worked a bit on an act I have to do tomorrow. I wasn’t floating on air or anything, but I was consumed with my tasks while I was doing them. Yesterday and today I consider research a part of my process. Tracking things down, falling down youtube rabbit holes. The more mundane and insane-making parts of the creative process. I suppose I am making future art. Art in the future. Oooooooh

So, I guess, to any of the 5 of you that might be reading this- I suggest you keep a handy list of things you need to work on for when your well runs dry, as it might help you. And take the advice that was given to me- take it easy on yourself. Sometimes you’re just not going to be creating anything. And sometimes you aren’t going to be creating anything good either. It’s all okay.

3 thoughts on “Determined to Suck #7: Artist Hell

  1. Welp, you inspired me to write a post too, so you’re accomplishing things all over the place.

    It’s funny that you say you look forward to your voice maturing. I’m really excited about most of the parts of getting older, *except* that. I’ve always worried that my voice will get crappier and crappier as I age, and I’ll regret not spending more time making music now while it is flexible and fluid and clear. The idea that it might actually get *better* with age is a new and surprising idea. If despair is the poison causing inaction, the hope is the antidote. Thank you for a hopeful thought.

  2. I am an artist, painter, and dancer ( many years ago now). I have been making art and selling my work for 35 years. I just read your notes on trying to suck at something and it is one of the best descriptions I have read anywhere in the Art World about the low, down time of zero energy. It is not surprising that a Burlesque dancer would “get it”, and say it so well.
    I spend a good three months each year in what I think of as zero hell…no ideas. I usually decide that it means I should stop “being” an artist, and I even decide that art is stupid anyway. I am 55 years old! Maybe time for a change! So I immerse myself in dance and just try to shut the F up! Move don’t talk to self in mind! It gets me through, and eventually it all comes back and off I go at 6 a.m. to my studio.
    Thanks for this Blog.
    Nicola Newton
    Santa Rosa

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