Art in a Paradoxical Age

Only moments after awaking this morning, upon looking into my bathroom mirror, I noticed that one of my tiny gold earrings was missing. I love these earrings dearly and I wear them daily. It must be somewhere nearby, I considered, since I would have noticed its absence last night while performing my nightly tunings with creams and brushes.

Knowing that I was supposed to be at the computer writing, I nevertheless permitted myself to search frantically, pathologically for this tiny accessory—a trifle, doodad, bauble in the most literal sense. With a sense of loss coating my stomach, I tossed my bedroom, stripping away sheets and pillaging my clothes. For too long I obsessed over this precious but replaceable earring. Until I realized that it was a mundane distraction, one that I employ each time I opt to grocery shop instead of read or do laundry instead of write. The eminent wit Dorothy Parker said, “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” For me, it’s easier to cross a chore off my list than to sit down and create one.

In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp lays bare the ruthless scouring and commitment required of artists. It is not a cleanly Appolianic dart of creativity that inspires one to create, but the ruthless “scratching,” search, strange ritual of a Bacchant that brings about authentic ingenuity. Tharp also states that, “Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art.” This dawn, my little gold earring was my metaphor for how I often starve out my creativity through furious but thankless activity. Ago ergo sum instead of cogito ergo sum.

To create, one has to be comfortable being alone and still with one’s thoughts. That is the paradox in Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception. While he discusses our need for connection and how that drives the new economy of artists, art often requires long stints of solitude, an ever-increasing commodity now that we are required to connect to survive.

The continual struggle to obsess over the details, the little golden earrings, while thinking big; to be alone while trying to connect with other; to make something perfect without getting messy that creates the dynamism within which art is forged.

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