Thursday, August 14, 2008

Creating in the Shadow of Cancer

A New Normal

The raw face of the unknown I stare in, sends shivers through my soul. My artistic activity has come to another level. It's been a year since cancer up-ended my life and, the precarious role of primary caretaker/second cancer patient, presented itself like a spoiled child. A new normal has set upon my creative life. Calendars are just fantasy now and scheduling long term dates are irritating. I look at photos of artwork for inspiration but the joy of planning months ahead brings on anxiety. The free flow of my creativity has been thwarted by an unseen silence.

It's hard to articulate the thing that dams up my creative flow, but the blockage is palpable. My Aha! – the enjoyment of a new idea flashing through me becomes daunted in the next moment of actuality. My artistic reality reflects this new normal creative life.

Every bump and twinge my partner has darts my spirit and panic awakens. It’s a spiritual dilemma. Making art anyway is now more than making meaning – it’s a way to survive. I can't do anything about this situation, but here I am. All I can do now is figure out how I create from this place. However, it's a huge energetic dare to stay in this new flow and extract my creativity.

My challenges are many. I’m adapting to remaining flexible and embracing uninvited change. It takes more than energy to face this challenge and I find part of my spirit stimulated by this new normal. Days when cancer seems the fantasy are both welcome and despised, because they expose my growth along with what has been abandoned. My painting is rusty and I can’t help overworking parts muddying their pigment. On reflection, sometimes I feel as if I’m stuck in mud. I decided it was time for a simple structure. A fifteen minute sketch everyday will help me awaken my skill and relieve stress. My internal critic can’t get too chatty over a brief and unintended masterpiece. The rhythm of work feels good. My mind can travel far away with my muse.

I need different creative space now. Little snippets of time to do small parts of my projects, work well with my new routine. I’m setting up small workstations around my studio to take advantage of time and keep my projects moving. Playing with my work more and not expecting anything good will result, removes pressure. I need no extra pressures now. I’m building both a reserve of energy and creativity to have ready for change. My senses are on high alert all the time and a new function of my muse seems apparent. Dabbling in new activities and taking advantage of every opportunity to walkabout and observe fills me full of something new. I’m not sure what will come into my art from all of this but I’m on for the ride.

It’s symbolic that this blog has started during the astrological sign of Cancer. My partner asked me what I thought about how cancer got its name. According to Encarta Encyclopedia, it’s Latin for crab and the crustacean is the symbol of the sign. It’s based on a Greek myth about Hercules. A crab fought him as he was attacking the Hydra, a many-headed monster. People born under this sign have an unusual sense of other people’s emotions and the knack to intuitively address their needs. Loving Comfort might as well be their name. I’m blessed to call one my close friend and she’s the antidote for a many headed monster like the disease. Writing this blog addresses my new normal creativity.

I learned along time ago that when life gets crappy it’s time to create a new one. The great thing about creativity is that it is constantly changing. There is a mysterious paradox between liking change in creativity, and hating it in something like cancer. On rough days my emotions run raw, which then feed a new creativity. We’re all familiar with the attitude S#*t happens! Or it’s always something! These days my creative zest fuels me with the response question- then what shall I create now?

How do you cope with the ugly dumps in your life? Do you feel your creativity is changed? When crummy things to you, what happens to your relationship with your creative muse?

Sandy Nelson makes art in Minneapolis. As a painter she loves to tell stories with her canvas and when writing she enjoys painting pictures with her words. She’s a Creativity Coach and consultant, running a consulting firm with her partner.

No comments: