2019 April: Giddily Ineffectual

I may want to try structuring my day more. At home, I feel the day goes on governed by my human weaknesses, and growing timidness to face things. How to organise myself though? How specifically should I compartmentalise my time? I’ve tried to categorise the types of work I need to do and timetable them, but this hasn’t really worked before. Maybe it’s as simple as designating certain hours, and then letting whatever happen inside of them.

M and I spoke the other day about how to keep motivated. He is never not motivated. To him, he said, everything he works on, matters to him. Finding something that matters to you and focusing on that, he said, is what keeps him motivated. When I look at him I can’t say that’s ever not been true, even when he hasn’t been so free to choose what his work is. He always finds something. That, I think, is the artistic way of looking at things; not taking anything for granted at any moment in life, and resisting complacency. I think a complacent attitude (not laziness, but quite specifically complacency) is the exact opposite of what is needed to make art and see art in things.

I wonder if general depression, ennui, deteriorating self esteem, etc has made me just all around care less, or at least make the world a more uncharacteristic blur. I tried to make art about this, too, when I started writing Anomaline, trying to harness even that feeling of not mattering and making it matter by turning it into a condition worth examining.

I wonder, though, if it is right to say that things have stopped mattering to me. Perhaps I am just changing. I have discovered new forms of tiredness and exasperation. Things weigh on me, the weight of adulthood.

To be artful is to break every rule set out to confine one’s experience to inevitability, and evade it by a slither. Not by random acts, but careful denouncement; subtle, responsive rebellion.

I remember as a teenager somehow having this phrase in my head, that there is nothing which I cannot find a way to rise above, no pain or adversary or confinement. I remember having a morbid self reliance, religious almost. I think it was conducive to becoming an artist. That I could overcome anything by thinking outside of the box and winning one game using the rules of another.

This idea, then, that anything can be turned into opportunity to rise above, is what I want to think about again now. But I am different, and what I am now is harder to appreciate than what I was, harder to trust and name.

If I can think about the things that matter in Anomaline to me, today, and not in the past, maybe that can drive me on. And I must have time in the day when I do not worry at all about how it is wasted or used, so long as it is devoted to the things that matter to me, and which this text I have written over the span of a few years has attempted to collect and name.

End of the Month Thoughts

Overall, I think things are going well with the practice. I feel I am building strength against adversaries of creativity. The LAHP rejection was tough, I was in a bit of a daze about it. I was really disappointed, but it didn’t disappoint me because it was proof that I wasn’t good enough. I was disappointed because the prize would have been a really good buffer and allowed me to feel for the first time that my work was sought after enough to be paid for. I would have felt less like a student and more like a researcher. Now that I will still have to pay fees through a combination of even more governmental loans and student debt and continued part time work, I admit I still feel like a student going into this PhD. But I want to return to academia with the same ferocity I had at the start of my BA. I am sure I had it other times too, but that’s when I remember it most. Fresh-faced and undamaged by prescriptions about art, ready to be bold in my way.

I still feel an element of that, and try, when sitting on the train listening to music, to find it in myself, a warrior like courage to venture with my treatments of human experience and story.

Now my working space consists of 3 main projects and 1 interesting side project.

  • Anomaline
  • A One Woman Play (Pseudonym)
  • Fictional Memoirs (Something Along These Lines)
  • GAN Faces


Week 1

  • I wrote the beginnings of a new performance that could go before Pseudo, a Blind Introduction of sorts, where I would speak with my eyes closed and introduce the play with the equivalent of an orchestra tuning itself before a performance.
  • T & I received an award for Art to Artillery, which lit us both up.

Week 2

  • Made a new empathy drawing, a ‘dancing Ent’ as described by T. I’m not sure what to think of it, and probably I could continue working on it, but it’s the first drawing of its kind that I’ve made for a while, which I feel is positive. I studied my emotions as I drew, which very much went up and down. But I think drawing brings me closer to meditation than anything else because I am suddenly aware of things like emotions and thoughts that pop into my head. Anyway, one thing I’ve sort of learned through the years is that my initial opinions about something I’ve made are often deflated and completely contrary to how I feel later. I remember making similar remarks like ‘I’m not sure what to think about it’ about my Turkey drawing too, which I now think is nothing short of one of my best.
  • Made a few flaky attempts at writing Anomaline. Things have been getting in the way, as usual. Illness, family, arguments or good times. Saying flaky is maybe a bit mean, and when I write I realise how unrelentingly judgemental I am about my motivation and behaviour as an artist. By flaky I mean that it was uncomfortable writing. Often physically uncomfortable. I don’t like sitting in the chair. Often I feel tired, and just want to lie down. I am not a super energetic person. I am even lazy. I want things to come to me. Well, the writing may have been similar to the turkey drawing, who knows? Perhaps it will turn out to be useful, these snippets in my notebooks.

Week 3

  • I wrote a chapter, “Reassuring Letter”, which I am quite proud of, particularly the idea about M waking up to a chapter surprised to be engaged in an activity which seems to have started before she was aware of it. I wrote a letter to my own protagonist. I discussed with parents the idea that the author (me) is the sky character in the novel. Dad thought that it makes sense that the origin of something is ‘everywhere’ as in the case of the Big Bang, which we must look about everywhere, as opposed to a certain direction, to picture. He liked that metaphor.
  • I am discovering that the ‘indecisive topology’ of the house is explained by the author’s indecisiveness with the exact number and layout of the rooms, but also that episodes are essentially chapters into which the character awakens, with no recollection of events between chapters, and no participation in the implied continuation of time that is assumed by readers to have occurred in between chapters. She is surprised to find herself in a new location engaged in a new occupation within each chapter.
  • Maybe M’s encapsulation is her finally solidifying into an idea for me. In my imagination I finally collected her various inspirational fragments into an entity I would repeatedly return to and consult in my writing. She had become a character.
  • I had a long Skype chat with M which felt important. He was trying to lead the conversation towards my motivation in my work, and what I am trying to ‘do’ with it. He was touching on the moments where I feel I am on to something that feels even bigger than a novel. When I find a way of saying something in writing, or creating virtual situations, that allow me to have an ‘insight’. He was trying to embolden me by saying that it feels like it is important work because it genuinely is important work. I noticed that I don’t usually think or believe or intuit that my work or the things I am trying to understand are more important than niche fascinations. M always reminds me that often niche fascinations make the most profound contributions to culture. He said things like, humanity needs to rethink things like identity and agency, because, clearly, what humanity is now cannot last. I found it surprising that he seemed to be asking me to consider the importance of my work, and we discussed the arrogance that seems to imply, but shifted the ‘importance’ to the discovery and not the discoverer.
  • I got rejected for the LAHP PhD Scholarship.

Week 4

  • Got rejected for three more opportunities!
  • Started making empathy drawings, weirdly. I made 3 new, small finished ones on A4 paper in the space of 2 weeks. I haven’t really drawn for a few years now, and this is the first time I’ve felt right about it since the period where I did loads of them. Maybe this gap year is achieving what I hoped, rekindling my love for my practice. Something is perhaps slightly maturer about the new drawings too, even though the style is pretty much the same. I want to make more ‘friends’, creatures like the wormy, dinosaury, buffalo types I’ve made until now.
  • I’ve started to feel less scared about working. And less guilty when I’m not working. And I learned that it is perhaps unnecessary to force a schemata onto my work. There’s no way around it, no shortcut; no way to master the job. When working I just have to get pulled in by the problems and try to address them, slowly.
  • Mum and I submitted our Durham Book Festival proposal, the first time we’ve tried collaborating.
  • I’ve managed to do a little writing on the go, on my laptop, even in Leeds. I am trying to write under imperfect conditions. I began some new chapters, without much substance yet.

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