This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.
I should have known that yesterday was going to be one of those days when
- Sweatpants and a sweatshirt were my chosen wardrobe
- The Internet went out for the second day in a row because the technicians who cut through the fiber optic cable the day before, knocking out services to two counties, sliced through it again in their efforts to repair the problem that they caused in the first place.
What it meant for me was that I felt fat, tired, and uninspired, and my offline choices were to work on any number of articles and assignments clamoring to be done, bring the books up to date, or clean off my desk.
I opted for the latter, discovering a business charge bill that was due that day and that had been interred beneath additional paperwork. Online options off limits, I called the Pay by Phone number, receiving a busy signal every five minutes for the three hours that I persisted.
That did it.
Tired, uninspired, frustrated, irritated, and feeling fat – do these sound like the necessary ingredients to produce quality writing?
Didn’t seem that way to me either.
I wrote off the work day and headed to the kitchen to make risotto.
For those of you who are not Italian (I’m not), risotto is a creamy, savory dish made with a special starchy rice called Arborio. To achieve that creaminess, the cook stands over the stove, stirring in hot broth ½ cup at a time, for a half hour or so.
And so, for work yesterday, I stood over the stove, humming and manipulating rice particles with a spatula. I washed the dishes. Swept the floor. Sat with Eddie the Thug Cat. Knit. Gave myself the day off mentally and physically because any creative mind work wasn’t happening, since my internal Internet connection was as shot as that fiber optic cable.
This is not easy for me, as my natural tendency is to hurtle myself forward, even if the steering wheel is having issues, in the belief that any movement, even random movement, is better than sitting still. (This is metaphorical: I don’t drive real cars this way.)
Sometimes, however, I’m tired enough or discouraged enough to take the advice that I give to others, and to give myself a break – mental, physical, spiritual – knowing that if I follow my instincts and do what I really want and need to do – I will reap the benefits later.
And so I am. Internet’s up. Form fitting sweater and cute jeans. Good night’s sleep, progress on the knitting, contented Thug Cat, inspiration to write, and a clean desk.
Artists do not fit their creativity into neat, eight-hour days, something middle managers will never understand. But you understand this. As your own middle manager, you wrestle with an orderly, recognizable work schedule wrapped like a python around the insurgent screaming soul of your Muse.
Yes, it’s good to be disciplined; it’s necessary to paint or write on a regular basis, not allowing yourself to do it only when you “feel” like it; it’s easier to produce when you set aside regular time for this work and stick to it, BUT
Some days, it just doesn’t happen.
On those days, make risotto.