Hey-la-di-la, my blog is back.

wave

Hello. I’m back. I haven’t posted in recent weeks, and I also haven’t

  • gone on vacation, pilgrimage, or silent retreat.
  • faked a plunge down a waterfall with my archenemy in my grasp, and then traveled in disguise while my dear Watson thought I was, um, done for.
  • entered a peaceful writers’ colony somewhere mountainous or ocean-adjacent.

What I have done is Live Out a particular aspect of being a Creative Part-Timer, and now I’m going to blog about it, which is awfully convenient for me.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out in picturesque Waltham, MA, where I visited the wonderful More Than Words Bookstore and Cafe, where they do good community work with young people, and where I bought a used copy of Take Ten: New 10-Minute Plays, edited by Eric Lane and Nina Shengold. Short plays have long interested me as an art form, partly because I’ve been lucky enough to see so many good ones, and partly because, unlike full-length plays, they don’t Terrify me as a writer. My contributions to theater have been mostly backstage, but several years ago I drafted some plays under the influence of that delicious drama-feast of Shorties that is the annual Boston Theater Marathon. Then I heard me just spinning my wheels, didn’t like the sound, and drifted away. I do that.

I read my new book straight through, play after play, with no performances to take my attention from Exactly What the writers were Doing. Turns out it was an excellent way to absorb the pure craft. Mind you, reading plays can give you the how-to’s, but that’s not the whole enchilada . You truly know plays by watching them, just as you know people by being with them, not just by looking through their clothes closet. Sure, you get an impression of who they could be, but you’ve never actually met them. The craft I cracked while reading these experienced people was how to write a play For Performance, not for Good Writing. That’s a shift I had to make, and it helped mightily that I am a seasoned, loving theater audience. Just saying.

I took out my drafts from years ago and got excited because they aren’t bad at all. I need to chill out as the wright and ask them to do a lot less. And I need to make my characters stop talking like me when I teach, saying everything 1 ½ times to make sure it gets across. Actors’ job, getting things across.  So I made marks and notes. I revised and wrote new bits. And I forgot all about you, Kindly Readers of the blog. That’s the CPT experience, emphasis on Part-Time, that I’m back to comment on.

As usual, I had only so much time to write, and I used it on those plays, which left me focused and full of joy. “Honey, love the one you’re with” is a credible working philosophy. Yet I didn’t write other things that sat patiently waiting, including the blog and my “Daily Grind” work. That bothered me, but I quickly acclimated to feeling bad about them. I do that.  I did not sacrifice pleasure-reading, Jeopardy, or wasting time to create more time to Be Creative. And there it is, the best of CPT and the worst of CPT: everything I accomplished tumbling into the abyss of what I did not write, and all the unwritten blog posts spilling out in a few play characters suddenly alive and speaking. Now that I have the blog, a binder full of poem drafts, notes for two big projects, AND four plays in progress, what choices am I going to make about what gets how much time? Same or different? What will I learn about being a CPT and an artist from those choices?

 

 

Saying Neigh

bobbie

When I was little, I liked Bobbie Had a Nickel by Frieda Friedman, a picture book that follows Bobbie’s thoughts on what to buy with his five cents. A toy? A bubble pipe? In the end, he chooses a carousel ride rather than a thing. Thus the naturalization of the positive capitalist construct expressed by the assumed empowerment paradigm inherent in material possession is challenged, and, indeed, somewhat overturned. Blimey. The academic’s gotten out. I have asked everyone please to keep that gate closed. Wait a minute…c’mere. C’mere…okay, safely back inside. Anyway. Many artists know all about deciding what to do with the one actual nickel in their pockets, and for the CPT, there is also deciding about the small coin of time you have to spend on your Creativity. I don’t always have/find/make the time I need to unroll the whole red carpet for an idea, or to let what’s sitting in my bowl rise slowly while I wait to roll it out at the exact right moment. (Two metaphors, both using “roll”. Woo.)

I feel the same five-cents-only pinch when I try to make time to experience other people’s Art. Part of me pants to explore new things as I come across them. Another Part of me, the wiser bit, smiles like the Buddha, knowing that it’s necessary to say No. There is nothing wrong, is there, with pursuing a couple of passions in depth while leaving other worthy things alone. Except for how that can feel, of course. But there it really always is: all the Books not read, all the Art not experienced, swarming around us like bees with sharp backsides. We have to limit ourselves. But these limits—call them renunciations when they sting enough— help us honor what choreographer Twyla Tharp calls our “Creative DNA,” that which we truly Are and Need to be Doing in the time we have. Knowing that doesn’t make it easy. Readers and art lovers have FOMO all their own, and it can be raw.

Riding a carousel was meaningful back then. My parents took me to Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island many Sunday afternoons, where I loved to pick my colorful horse and happily go around. OK, sometimes more than one horse…they were all pretty, you know.  Naturally I was a Bobbie fan. As I am now a fan of the 18th century, literature, and theater. And poetry, Modernist art, Bohemian style. And good nature writing about the shore and good spiritual writing. And I literally have no time for it all, never mind the rest of the fascinating world. More or less. Sometimes I worry that’s close-minded, my Ego demanding to see itself reflected in the art I engage with. There’s enough truth in that worry to make sure I stretch mindfully and take a spin outside the comfort zone. But at the same time, doesn’t any Creative, especially a CPT, need to acknowledge the bright horse in the mad swirl she recognizes as her own, and, as the song says, ride that painted pony?

I admire people whose passionate pursuits aren’t peppered underfoot with gravelly bits of the roads not taken. I suspect they understand that the Rest of the Art is for someone else to connect with. We love the world together; it only works as a group effort. That’s not a bad thing to realize in trying to spend your nickel well on your own art and other people’s.