April 23, 2004

Fetching Water, Chopping Wood

This is taken from my personal journal entry of March 30, 2004.

Lately it seems like there’s more and more talk out there about how difficult it is for writers (and artists in any discipline) to make an income that places them above the poverty line.

I don’t consider myself to be some sort of writing diva. I’m more than willing to put in all the long hours and work it takes to get the novel done. I’m not above putting myself out there to publicize it…signings, workshops, residencies, lectures, schlepping copies around in the back of my car. My motto: “nice work if you can get it…”

It’s getting the thing published that feels like a shot in the dark.

Maybe I should get back to painting the walls of this room. (A task I put aside in an effort to finish the book.) No big dreams hang over the painting job. It is what it is. I have all I need to accomplish it and that’s very appealing to me right now. Maybe it’s like fetching water and chopping wood, the physical thing that gets the body moving, pushes the mind out of the way, pushes expectation and worry to the back of the stage for a while. I don’t want to procrastinate the big things- my writing, my working through this current period of waiting, but I feel I need to get to a place where the creative stream is flowing strong and deep and I’m just not there today. I’ll try painting and come back to this.

(45 minutes later)
Observations: I’m as scattered in the practice of painting as I am in my writing.

Is this a good thing?
I am putting a yellow glaze over orange paint (a process I started nearly two years ago and I’m just starting to lay the glaze on the walls again.) It’s a tedious process, especially if I want it to turn out the way I have envisioned it to look. I dip a rag (an old cotton diaper) in the glaze, pat it on the wall in small spots, spread it out in a smearing motion and then pat over it again. This gives the wall the look of what I imagine a villa in Tuscany would have…it also hides the fact that I only rolled on one coat of the tangerine colour, leaving roller tracks at odd angles all over the walls and ceiling. I had learned to live with it, promising myself I’d finish it when the novel was complete.

Today I flitted about the room, rag in one hand, a small container of paint in the other, reaching up and down each wall, extending spots I had already started, starting new spaces, always looking for the best light and an angle that’s not too taxing on my wrists. I have stayed away from the ceiling for now and feel somewhat guilty for it. After almost an hour I was too tired to go on, and again I have to live with the unfinished work.

One wall, the wall I’m sitting closest to, is nearly complete. Thirty, maybe forty minutes of stretching up high, crouching down low, aching to get at the odd angle under the gable. Eventually I’ll look at it and decide to put all my energy into making it complete. I have no doubt that day will come. I know this because this is how it’s been with many undertakings, big and small in my life. There is always a period of chaos where nothing seems to be in order and so I take great pains to make one thing ‘right’.

I also know that there’s no use in wondering if it will be tomorrow or two weeks before it’s finished. It is what it is, sunny and glowing…Naples yellow and tangerine, keeping the white pages of my notebook warm while the snow slowly retreats from the withered, spongy grass.