All work and no play makes Jack a dull, dull boy. Julia Cameron tells artists to take a day each week and refresh themselves. She calls this an Artist’s Date. We writers would do well to heed her advice.
To do this properly, you need to actually understand that what you do—writing—is a form of art. That’s right. Art. Get on good terms with that word. If you’re not making art, why bother stringing together a bunch of words? Aren’t there enough un-artful words crowding the pages of this world? And if you are making art, then you ought to allow yourself the necessity—not luxury, necessity—of soaking up some of the art around you on a frequent basis.
A couple years back we traveled to the wonderful Cleveland Museum of Art, not far from Kattywompus Press’s first home, to view the spectacular exhibit, The Lure of Painted Poetry: Japanese and Korean Art, a segue between written and visual art forms that offered up a feast of tactile and logistical pleasures, with restored pottery, folding screens, hanging silk and paper work that deliciously intertwined poetry and painting.
On any given day there are museums and galleries and public spaces bursting at the seams with just such nourishment.
Too many people call themselves writers and don’t bother to go to a gallery or an art museum, out to a concert or dance performance. Don’t tell me it’s too nice to spend your afternoon off indoors: make a map of the public art in your city or town and give yourself the grand tour.
And use your noggin. Think a little, about what your work has to say to, or to learn from, the art you view. Writing doesn’t happen in a cultural vacuum—or I should say, it shouldn’t happen in a vacuum. Read your art history, people. Read about the lives of dead poets whose work you admire. It’s no coincidence that a lot of those people spent their lifetimes and their careers in active dialog with one another. It’s called cross-fertilization, and it enriches the conversation.
After all, writing, and all art, is a conversation in the end. A cultural chat-room where those of creative sensibility come together to riff on life-as-we-know-it. We’re all talking about the same things, we just speak in our own artistic dialects.
And don’t go telling people I said nature is a bad restorative. You need to get your overworked rear out into the woods, into the mountains, out on the water, too. But that’s another column.