Sunday, January 27, 2019

Those Times When I Can't Get Motivated

In the last few days two people have asked if I'm working on any art projects. Sadly, I haven't been in the studio at all this year. I've been having difficulty getting motivated. This is odd for me. I think I'm usually pretty good about just showing up to the studio, motivation or not.

last year at this time I had work in a Nasty Woman show at Yakima Maker's Space

In fact, I keep telling myself that I just need to get in there. Lying in bed at night, I'll tell myself that tomorrow I'll just go in and clean. Or I'll just go in and take pictures of the work I glazed and fired in December. Or may I'll just coil build something--that shouldn't be too difficult.

Last winter I was making interesting changes to my hand-building class.

But the next day comes and I find that I really need to start the laundry, or clean the kitchen, or grade for class, or go for a walk with friends, and I don't do the studio work. My daughter, too has been highly persuasive. Last quarter I felt that I spent too much time on the weekends and evenings doing class work, so I've made a concerted effort this quarter to limit what school work I do at home.

Instead she and I read, play a game, draw, go for a bike ride (early January was fairly mild in Yakima), or do some other project together. Somehow, though, she often laments that we haven't "done anything" and then I feel guilty about how I've spent my time.

This weekend's activities have included sewing and making Valentines cards with her 4H club.

I'm a worrier. I can find something to worry about with little provocation. Before Christmas I worried about whether everyone would be upset about the presents I got them. I really worried that the Lego set we bought for my nephew without looking at the age recommendation would be too difficult (it wasn't). I worry all the time that I am not doing all I can to make my classes good enough. I worry that I don't exercise enough or I consume too much sugar. I worry that our house is too messy and our diet includes too few vegetables. I worry that I haven't been blogging twice a week though I used to post that often.

And, logically, I am fully aware that all of these are stupid worries. The most important part of Christmas is just seeing folks. My nephew is a perfectly competent Lego builder with a slew of family members happy to help him. I work damn hard on my classes and they're pretty good. The point of exercise is to keep my calm and reduce my impulse to worry and the point of the blog is to help me think through things that are on my mind. We should all probably eat more vegetables.

Or, as Newt Scamander (and a bunch of folks before him) points out, it's stupid to waste energy worrying.

There's a sign in the gym where I workout in the morning that says "if you've stopped being better, you've stopped being good". Which, of course, I interpreted to mean that since I haven't been in my home studio in a meaningful way since July, I am no longer an artist.

What you do everyday day is who you are (that might be an "inspirational" poster in the gym, too, now that I think about it). What I do all everyday is teach, think about teaching, think about our union, read, and hang out with my family. What I don't do everyday (or even every week lately) is make my own clay stuff, or even really think about making my own clay stuff.

I made these mugs this summer and even glazed some of them in December.
I've been trying to find this meme I saw late last year about women feeling exhausted trying to work, raise kids, be financially independent, go to the gym, have a perfect smoky eye, and all the things that seem to be expected of us. (Full disclosure: I've literally never thought about trying to have the perfect smoky eye.) I can't remember the punchline and now I'm wondering if there was one. The thing that resonated is the feeling that we "should" and the feeling that we can't possibly.

I have thought about making the perfect angry clay.

I recently came across an article about an author, Pat Barker, who says that a writer "must resist the urge to clean." I didn't actually read the article, but I think that's kind of the point, too. There's so many thing to fill my days, and so many things I'd like to do or have done. It seems like a good idea to have a clean house, happy family, healthy lifestyle, make good art, be the best possible teacher, grade submissions quickly, connect individually with all of my students, work out every day, read all the books, do projects with my daughter, attend her games and practices, go to interesting events in town, travel, talk to my husband, see my family more often, and blog regularly about all of it.

But it can't be done. Choices must be made. Having a clean house means taking time away from writing, or making art. (I've been writing this morning, therefore our house isn't clean today.) Making good art means making art everyday or at least a few days every week, which isn't compatible with maintaining a high quality, dynamic, and responsive online class and being an involved parent. I could probably do more of the former if I didn't teach online. But I do. I teach at a college that emphasizes teaching, at the obvious cost of studio time or "research."

As one of my colleagues pointed out the other day, looking at what happens to teaching at some research institutions, I'm where I want to be. But periodically I have to drag myself back through this  reality check about what I have prioritized and why. Looking back through my blog, the last time I wrote about this struggle was almost exactly two years ago. And in 2011 I wrote about having this struggle, and needing to pull myself back after comparing my work and my choices to other artists across the country. In 2012, I did a project aimed at addressing the difficulty of getting into the studio during the academic year.

If i looked harder, I could probably find more examples of the times I've moaned, or worried, or justified, or taken action to try to address this fundamental struggle. For now, I'll tag this post as "work life balance" and go hang out with my family, or maybe I'll clean the house.