One thing I’ve learned from my study of publishing over the past several years is that it’s harder than ever to get published (unless you want to go the self published route, which has its own set of challenges). The same goes for making money off of your published work, and the overall message is: keep doing the work, but if you are lucky enough to have a day job, for the love of god, don’t get any big ideas and quit. Of course, that’s just the money side.
A life in the creative arts, visual, literary or media driven is going to cycle. If you’re lucky you will have high points, where your work is recognized, celebrated and publicized. You will be the golden child, the success. Then success will wane or change, come back or not, expand or place you in the one-hit-wonder file.
You will still be you. Your work will still be your work. Even though you may be driven by recreating success you may not be able to – sometimes this approach has the opposite effect. If you are to have a life that is informed by creating work of your own – books, paintings, installations, performances – you will sooner or later reach that moment where you ask: Is it worth it? Why am I doing this? Does it matter?
This is all part of the deal. I didn’t know this for a long, long time.
After a trip to Rome some years ago I started making crowns. I was enchanted by the pounded gold headdresses in the Villa Giulia and elsewhere. I thought: I could use a crown or two like that, and realized that the only way I was going to get them in the immediate future was to make them myself. From these I started working with themes of abundance and when I sit down to paint just for fun I still begin with these images, flowers and fruit, seeds and leaves.
My writing community has been telling me for years : do the work, get better, learn from us as we learn from you. I am finally able to make the connection: oh yeah, we are making our own crowns. In a time of scarcity and change, of uncertainty and loss, our work matters more, not less. Its value is in the making, the craft, the act (for ourselves), and in modeling that we are our own abundance, and that abundance has its own cycle of bloom, maturity, seed, and winter (for ourselves and for our community). Wherever we are in that cycle is worthy of those elusive laurels, though it really doesn’t feel like it sometimes.
I’m spending my Sunday walking and writing, making a golden circlet of abundance. Hopefully, I can wear this invisible crown for at least a few days before I have to construct another.