I hate to start out with a cliche, but art really can make you starve. You can be a stalwart perfectionist when it comes to fine art, be it writing, music or the like. Fine, in that I mean something that builds on our love of the world in which we live, that speaks to the conscience, that speaks to the heart’s struggles, that builds on the true temperament of the human experience. But, it can make you starve, when you don’t know when to put the pen down, the instrument that bends your will to the medium.
I started writing my first book, Sea of Dust around 2006. It wasn’t published until 2013. During that time, I also released my seventh album, 2012, and worked towards my black belt in karate. I came within a week of getting my black belt, but backed down due to an incredible inner-struggle that I think stemmed in part from my finally putting my manuscript to rest. It left me feeling stripped bare. Sometimes, I can’t even look at all the work I put into it. It was good work, but not particularly put together to my liking. That’s another thing, when do we as writers know when we’re actually done? Probably when someone says, “Hey, let me put that book out!” In this way, too we tend to need some kind of audience to ground us, to make us feel as though we are indeed doing something with all this creative work - that it makes sense to create for something that rarely, if ever, pays.
I think turning all the wheels at once, be it the martial arts, writing, or music, all of it has made me a very limited being, in that I have very little left in the way of an ability to self-reflect. Everything is detail oriented. Everything is structured and easily demystified. I can’t seem to find the magic. So, I’ve decided to get back to regular living, where I’m not living my lines on a day-to-day basis, or looking for some kind of meaning in the mundane: just living it. I think I need to reconstruct myself, in the real meat of the matter. Not the fruits of my labor, just the fruits of realization, without the labor, without the intensified workload around the goal.
The fear of losing the power to write has never left me. It has, in a sense begun to instead haunt me a bit. I can’t quite seem to shake the mess I was in trying to get the work done. I don’t want that to be part of it: the obsession. I think just having someone come up to me and say, “Job well done,” is a really nice gift for me, now. I don’t need much else, just a key to the door of spontaneous living, to find the joy in writing, the real reason.
Illustration by Matt Manley. Matt has been working as a freelance illustrator for over twenty years. His illustration is primarily figurative and symbolic with surrealist leanings, and past client work includes editorial, corporate, medical, book, and higher education. Though in the end his work is technically digital collage, the process integrates both traditional and digital media. Collage elements are original oil paintings and drawings, with occasional scanned found objects and photos added to the mix, all united in Photoshop.