Stealing Like an Artist

Thursday 21 April 2011

Whilst stealing time from work the other day, I came upon this adorable post:

How to Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me).

I like this: "I think the more that writing is made into a physical process, the better it is. You can feel the ink on paper. You can spread writing all over your desk and sort through it. You can lay it all out where you can look at it."

I wrote a few blog posts standing up last week, the way Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway and Lewis Carroll all used to write.  It was an interesting experience.  It was unintentional.  The only reason I didn't have my arse packed into the chair was because I was in the process of moving house and there was no chair.

Writing standing up felt like the ideas were able to flow better.  I think I shall try it out more often, while trying to remain mindless of how silly I feel because of how strange I must look.  Because ooh, geez, the more we go on in life, the less we are free to move in ways that may seem silly.  Kids have it right;  think of the ways they fling themselves around, make weird faces, do stuff with their hands and feet, jump up and down on the spot, just because.

I keep coming upon these things that I want to do involving movement, and I look so stupid when I do them.  Weird yoga asanas where I stick my tongue out and splay my fingers out.  Yoga pranayams (breathing exercises) where I'm breathing in and out really fast.  In the nocturnal hours a few days ago, I amused my partner by stomping my feet in my sleep in the middle of an anxious dream.

I am thinking a lot lately about the body in this strange, awful, beautiful age we live in where they are so superfluous to what we do so much of the time.  So many jobs now involve us sitting disembodied in front of computer screens.  As if we are just these giant heads of thought, removed from our bodies.  Too much computer work is a disembodying experience.

There is this idea that still gets about within certain spiritual disciplines.  It masquerades as an uber-spiritual conception that the body is just this thing to overcome on your way to enlightenment, a base beast.  But the body is what links us to the earth, and if we abuse one, we abuse the other.  The body is a "living vehicle" as Anodea Judith describes it.  I spent the first half of my life ignoring it and its limitations, stuffing away its memories.  In the second half of my life, I am slowly learning to treat it with the respect it and those memories deserve (but oh, dessert, how thou dost stumble me).

Just as you cannot transcend your ego until you have one that is vaguely functional to begin with, neither can you easily transcend your body for spiritual benefit when it is sick or stiff, neglected or overlooked.

Another thing I like, too, from that post I linked to above, though it challenges me: "A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Parkinson’s law: work expands to fill the time allotted. I work a 9-5 and I get about as as much art done now as I did when I worked part-time."

This challenges me because right now, I have been working part-time yet on certain days it expands out like foam to something closer to full-time.  But because I get paid by the word for my main client, I'm doing the same amount of work for the same amount of pay, regardless of the time it takes.  But I stop during the day because I'm bored, and so I go and read blogs or read things that interest me.

My creative practice has dried up recently, as moving-house anxieties have gutsed their way into my energies.  Giving time and space to the things that I delight in doing is a bit of an ongoing struggle for me.  And so I take solace in the fact that Parkinson's law applies not only to work and to bureaucracies, but to anything, really.  It reminds me that time is bubbly.  The amount you spend on something does not always equate to what you get out of it.  This works both ways.  Small, grabbed moments can yield wonderful things.

Those moments are not the same as making space and time each day to devote to that which is very important but is not urgent.  But in the leaner times, the grabbed moment can yield up its beauty:  20 minutes snatched and you fall into a vast field.  A reminder that time may click its way round the clock in equal measure, but the way we walk through that it is not particularly linear at all.


  1. Was sitting here in my PJs thinking I must go and have a shower then get breakfast, but once I started reading this post, and the one you linked to, I was hooked! This question of physicality is so important. I get so many of my best ideas out walking. I love the word "earthy", which spells out the best kind of physicality for me.
    This fragment of sentence of yours will stay with me: the grabbed moment can yield up its beauty

  2. whole-bodied writing :)
    reminds me of gestural painting

    both are good to get one out of one's head and into one's body

    truly 'being' in the world

  3. I like it, Sue. I haven't ever examined how physicality impacts my creativity. I'll have to think on it, maybe try something new.

    But when you were talking about how your work expands to fill the time allotted...I was just thinking the other day how our stuff expands to fill the space we live in. It really annoys me, and I am not even conscious of how it happens. It really annoys me.

  4. Tess - ooh, yeah, I love the word "earthy" too, and the smell as well :) I am planning a new blog which is focussed all around the issue of physicality - not exercise so much as how it feels to be centred in our bodies. It is important, isn't it. Feels so good to be here ...

    Kel - getting out of one's head is a delightful experience, isn't it :) We walked over 10 kms, much of it uphill, on one of our days away this weekend. That's a lovely thing for getting out of your head, physical tiredness :)

    Erin - yeah, it really annoys me, too. So easy for all of that stuff to just ooze out into the whole day, and suddenly you haven't (again) got time to do the things you really desire to do. Here's to finding the small moments.

  5. wow - 10km!?!
    i'm impressed


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