Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task

“It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.”

Read the rest: Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task | Vox Populi

Trying to get back to studio days now that holidays are over (meaning lots of yardwork, which isn’t even finished, I have to rearrange the woodshed before carting in a new load, strawbales will hopefully be delivered soon, to be stacked, the base of all buildings need to be painted and I have an ongoing list for next year as well!)

I’m sure many of you recognise the conundrum, especially if you are an artist without actual income from your creative work – the constant pull to be creating, the push in the opposite direction from the guilt of skipping practical chores.

Falling out of the habit of workflow is always easier than jumping back into it, and I work slowly enough as it is. And yet I must. Or eventually I go bonkers…. 😉 So back on the horse it is! I don’t know that I’ll ever declutter my mind completely and work exclusively on one thing, or that it would even do me any good. I do know that quitting wouldn’t help at all.

6 thoughts on “Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task

  1. I am so completely in this same place! Other life issues have gotten me off track on the things I love to do and it isn’t easy to get back!

    1. The multitasking only works for me with small things – loading the washer as I pass by, vacuuming at the end of the day. Yesterday I tidied and totally cleared my workbench, taped up some paper ready to paint, thinking this was a go. But today I’m incapable of thinking because of physical issues, so I’ve done some bigger menial things, stacking the woodshed, cleaned horseboxes, napping between each instead of doing MY thing. And I can feel how my mind keeps telling me of all the other big outdoors tasks that are time sensitive. Next week hopefully the moon will be in another quarter and I’ll have my “vehicle” back.

      Of course, I could have chosen to live in a place where nothing practical had to be done, but I can’t see myself in an urban environment ever again. I’ll take the woodshed any day compared to hearing the neighbours’ kids, cars, and tv on the other side of the wall!

  2. Love Mary Oliver and her words ring true, for sure! I am waiting for days to cool and for winter to come, the gardens and nursery will be put aside for another season, and then, maybe, just maybe, I can get into the studio! The whole point of the studio was to allow me space and concentration to work on creative projects, but right now our country life is requiring our full attention. No suburban living for us either! Should we try a retreat!!!???

  3. I adore Mary Oliver – I have most of her books 🙂 A wonderful post! Popped over from Sarah’s blog – lovely to meet you, Pia x

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