“Art begins in a wound, an imperfection, and is an attempt either to learn to live with the wound or to heal it.”
The “wound” is still fresh, and imperfections abound.
I am no longer in the safe bubble of an academic atmosphere, where the work is guaranteed – though I’m paying for it rather than getting paid – and optimism about the future is easy to come by. “I’m getting a Master’s degree at a prestigious university. Of course I’ll be able to find a job,” can quickly turn into, “Why did I get a Master’s degree if I can’t find a job that uses it?” And therein we find the many imperfections of an artist looking for work.
These last few months I’ve been consumed by my search for work. My online existence has been whittled down to cover letters and job websites and professional e-mails, electronic applications and resumes and profiles that can’t possibly give an employer any real inkling as to what or who I actually am. The number of “sent” e-mails grows while my inbox remains empty (except for those empty “Thank you for your interest” responses). The amount in my savings account shrinks while the student loan numbers loom ever larger and more intimidating. Out of this wound – or into it – I’m pouring my savings, my time, my energy, my focus, and nothing is coming back in to close it. I’ve been trying so hard to find work that I’ve forgotten to create my own.
I enjoyed working my way through grad school because there was always something to write, to think about, to question, to create. My mind was focused on how to be an academic and an artist, but lately all it’s been doing is figuring out how to be an employee. Which is okay, right? Because I have to be an employee somewhere to support myself as an artist, don’t I? I can’t do both, not just yet.
Maybe not. As Stephen Sondheim once wrote, “Is it always ‘or’? Is it never ‘and’?” I seem to have traded in an artistic frame of mind for a job-searching one, and convinced myself that’s okay in the meantime because that’s what had to be done. But this blog is proof that art and work don’t have to be separate. I don’t have to wait for one to get to the other. Instead of waiting for work, I can create my own, whether “work” means a job or a piece of art – or both. Who knows?
None of us know where or how this blog will end up, no more than any of us know where or how our lives will end up. But the good thing – the great thing, really, the incredibly uplifting thing – is that on this page there is already a work of art growing out of this wound, out of this imperfect situation we have found ourselves in. Art and work don’t have to be opposites. We don’t have to choose to live as workers or as artists. We can do both, we can be both. We can work on that together, and let the wound start healing.