Happy Pisces Season! Happy New Year!
I told someone Happy New Year on January 14th. "You can’t say that anymore,” they chuckled. “This is the first time we’re together in 2023 so it’s our new year,” I responded. Anyway, this is our new year because it’s our first time coming home together in 2023, my beloveds. It should come as no shock that I, your resident Aquarius, am starting this newsletter with the declaration that time is fake unless your food is in the microwave (in which case it is excruciatingly real.)
I intended to send this newsletter on the first of the year, but what’s the hurry? I’ve decided to enter 2023 with a sultry saunter, hips making a full swing from right and then left to make sure each step lands firmly on solid ground, rather than my usual frantic dash to the next year before this one has even begun. A hurry is only a declaration to the universe that I don’t believe there’s enough time for the natural pace of my peace. I’m not too late for my renewal. How could I be? It’s mine after-all.
Meditating on all that I wish to share with the world this year: a podcast, more Third Cup events, my forthcoming oracle deck with Chronicle Prism (!!!!!!!!), and so…so much more, it seems damn near pressing to establish a good creative process. And when I say ‘good,’ I mean effective and gracious. I stumbled on this bell hooks excerpt from her Art on the Mind which summarized every nuance I experience in my own practice, and inspired 5 specific virtues that I think make an artistic process truly sustainable.
Lived in and leisurely. In Art on the Mind, hooks expounds on the aforementioned excerpt by saying that “work from women artists is never just the moment when we write, or do other art like painting, photography, paint-up, or mixed media. In the fullest sense, it is also the time spent in preparation and contemplation.” What kind of preparation was she referring to? In the context of reverie, I’d imagine that she meant life. Life prepares us for great art. The notes app was the genesis of nearly every piece of work I’ve written. I was out at dinner, in bed with a lover, on a hot girl walk, or crying on the train when a voice whispered “there’s a lesson here.” Great stories, whether transmuted into a hand-thrown bowl, acrylic on canvas, lyrics in a song, or an earnest Instagram post, aren’t created at the work station. They’re simply translated there.
You can always tell when something was inspired at a desk, and I’m not a hater so I won’t go on. I don’t spend as much energy thinking about writing as I do living a life that opens my heart wide enough to peek inside and translate as best I can. Of course, this applies most clearly to an essayist or screenwriter or any creative equally as voyeuristic of the hero’s journey as we are, but reverie is not something to be undersold. The whole reason we create is to make divine sense of the physical world. Therefore, we must be so fully present in the physical that we can’t miss the divinity hidden in plain sight. I think some call that “stopping to smell the flowers.”
Purposeful. I think this is particularly relevant now — when everybody wants to be an influencer, and artists who never wanted any level of visibility are forced to be influencers in order to be seen. Most everybody has no idea who they are trying to influence or what they are trying to influence them to do (or buy.) Not enough people are asking themselves why they create often enough, and that tends to end work far before it ever starts because there’s no substantive foundation to build on. The ‘why’ is our authenticity, our drive, and our resilience. What is going to get you out of bed on days when you feel distant from personal power? What is going to make you feel like your creation is still enough when the praises are quiet, the likes are few, and the money is tight?
What do you want to tell the world most about your growth, perspective, and impact and how do you think it’ll impact theirs?
Compassionate. To you. You need a practice that is compassionate to you. The reason why the starving artist trope has outlived most starving artists is simply because you do in fact need to pay your bills and put food in your belly. Prioritizing work that pays just makes sense. Your creative process needs to recognize your survival, whether that means investing most of your energy in a career that feeds or taking on an extra project that pays the bills so you can create on your “down time.” Release yourself from the all or nothing ideas around “successful” artistry - successful creatives are people who get to create, maintain a semblance of peace, and live well.
Dedicated. Show up. Regardless of the circumstances of your life, you will eventually return back to your passion when you can and that is all the creative process really requires of you. “Women artists cannot wait for the ideal circumstances to be in place before we do the work we are called to do; we have to create oppositionally, work against the grain,” says bell hooks. I love that she references work we are “called to do,” because we don’t have to do anything. The creative process is not successful if seen as something we are obligated to do out of prestige or force outside of our own internal compass.
The contract to work is one you have signed with yourself which demands sacrifice and gentle discipline. You might be in grief or transition or just straight up stuck, and that’s okay. But you deserve your art and your art deserves you.
So when you’re ready, write a sentence instead of an essay. Write a chorus instead of a song. Post your silly little TikToks to shake the rigidity out of your body and find the levity of creation again. There is no black and white ‘doing or not doing’ in creation. Little by little, inch by inch, and in whatever capacity you can muster, show up.
Collaborative. Nothing is original. This is coming from - and I cannot stress this enough - an Aquarius with a huge individuality complex. The sooner you get over this, the more inspired and the less isolating your creative process will be. Share. Share. Share! They say great writers read way more than they write. There is something here about continuing to be a student of your craft, but it’s also about not putting yourself on a creative island. Creating in a vacuum becomes devoid of meaning beyond yourself when you forget the context your work lives in. It is great to intentionally surround yourself with admirable art and admirable artists.
Leave creating masturbatory work and competitive spirit to the bourgeoisie, and start working with creatives of your own heart. In this interview, our fave Issa Rae famously discusses horizontal networking and the virtue of working with other artists in the trenches with you instead of waiting for your idols to recognize you:
I considered listing humility as our fifth virtue of creative processes, but I don’t like the misuse of the word. Most people describe humility as low self-regard and general denial of achievement, magic, and consequent truth - of which I am in visceral opposition. Humility as a recognition of how insignificant the ego is in the face of vulnerability is right up my alley. When we are humble enough to be novice, struggle through learning, and ask for help or constructive criticism, we are creating a safe place for objectively good work and the kind of vulnerability that houses life- and generation-changing collaboration. Stop being a slave to the alienated genius within — you’re not the first or only to do anything and that is the good news because it means you can go find your people and create something far better with the support of them than you could alone.
These are virtues I am trying to show up for as many days as I can. Let me know if you join me.
thank you for this!!!