I’m sure you’ve all been wondering where I’ve been, and why I haven’t been blogging, so here’s the explanation. After the first time around, back before the blog was actually public, I realized that if I didn’t make a habit of posting every day, I’d eventually get stuck in the trap of having too much inertia to overcome in order to post again. I’d accumulate so much stuff to post that I wouldn’t be able to set aside the time to write about it. So when I did my stretch of daily posting for months on end in 2005, I had made a mental contract with myself to never miss a day.
Another factor was the issue of what I’ll call creative energy. I find that writing takes a completely different mental focus for me than does the creation of visual works. I haven’t analyzed it in depth, but I definitely found that in Japan I didn’t have the proper mental focus to make visual works, but it wasn’t much of a problem for me to write. It also wasn’t too difficult for me to take photographs. I think this has something to do with differences in the types of creativity I was engaging in. A key part of my practice as a visual artist is to create something from nothing. In other words, my visual arts practice is primarily generative, so to speak. On the other hand, my blog writing—and the photography that supported a lot of that writing—was primarily journalistic. I was, in effect, a recorder, commentator, editor. These are all things that are also part of my visual practice, but they don’t form the core of it. Writers out there might disagree with me, but within my own practice, I find that the act of writing is a completely different creative act from the act of drawing. Let me clarify that. I find that writing a piece of non-fiction prose is a completely different act than creating an evocative landscape within an imagined world populated by archetypal beings.
In Japan I was unable—or more clearly, didn’t have the mental focus—to create the kinds of visual works that I wanted to. I had physical space for it. I had time, as well. I just didn’t have the stillness or the brain for it. It has been suggested by some of my more cynical readers that I was in Japan to blog, and that my blogging in Japan was a self-imposed Board of Education-subsidized make-work project for using the occasional long stretches of idle time between classes. I have to say that while my writing could have been considered to have fallen within the scope of my contract, and that I did occasionally write at school, the vast bulk of my output was done from home, on my own time. Usually in the wee quiet hours after Lia and Jarrod were in bed.
But back to England. In moving to here, I made a different contract with myself. Actually, a couple of different contracts. First, having realized that the internet is a huge time sink—often a very interesting and entertaining time sink, but a time sink no less—Lia and I decided—for the first time in 6 years—to try to live without broadband internet. We lived in a small, remote village with limited opportunities to go online. My options for online access were thus reduced to:
- dialup (I refused this as unworkable)
- going to a neighbour’s house every now and then to leech connection time (being a hermit, I didn’t do this often)
- going to the internet cafe in town (This meant taking my laptop on the bus into town when taking Jarrod to school, and then hauling it around for 2 hours while I did errands—shopping, bill-paying, etc—while waiting for the one wireless-accessible internet cafe to open. Said internet cafe has what can best be described as “eclectic” hours, so there’s no guarantee that the trip and the waiting and the hauling will have been worthwhile. That, and the English fall-winter-spring was rainy. Not pleasant for waiting around in.)
- going to the public-access terminal at the library (half-hour daily limit, people peering over your shoulder, or talking loudly while you work, no way to download my email to my computer for offline reading/response.)
- going up to Lia’s campus with my laptop (scheduling was the primary issue here, as well as the strange looks from tutors and other postgraduate students, despite Lia having gotten permission for me to use the facilities for occasional internet stuff. Plus there’s the constant noise, sometimes worse that the teacher’s room in Japan, which was easy to shut out.)
This has meant that maintaining a regular blog-posting schedule would have been very difficult. Or at least required a lot of advance planning. So to sum up, internet access has been a challenge.
The other “contract” I made with myself was in regards to my art work. Having budgeted our money such that neither of us would have to get day jobs, I decided that this was going to be a year of studio practice for me. Since leaving art school, I’ve never had a large block of time in which to work in the studio on whatever I wanted. I did get a grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board a few years ago, but that was to pursue a specific project, and it was six months of half-time work, where the non-studio time was taken up with my freelance graphic design practice. So, this year in England was to be a year of just studio time.
In effect, I put the blinders on, trying to eliminate as many distractions as possible—including internet and blogging—to just work in the studio.