Who Says An Artist Needs to Suffer? (and giving thanks)

I have had this postcard since I was in high school. It has followed me through art school, through my early career and life in Atlanta, and now over thirty years since I bought it, it lives on the cork-board in my home/office in Seattle.

When I first bought it, I looked at the woman artist sitting on that stool. She seemed old to me. Now she seems young. I loved the butler and the maid and harbored a fairy-tale-like fantasy that someday I would have a huge loft in Soho and servants to help so that I could just create.

(pardon me, I'm rolling on the floor, laughing)

Noooo... that didn't happen. I do everything myself: cook, clean, shop, weed, take care of two homes, an elderly father, and stepsons, one who is currently back in residence and causing enormous stress. The cat seems easy, so she is no burden, and my husband is my helpmate and my fellow inmate during the rocky times and the good times. And I work. I write, I concept, I illustrate, I promote, I live and breathe books.

I just finished the first draft of a new Middle Grade novel using National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo as my deadline. I wrote just over 50,000 words in twenty-two days, which worked out to 210 manuscript pages. I wrote early in the morning each of those twenty-two days until about 2pm, and then quit to go do grocery shopping, cook, clean, and deal with any fires that needed to be put out. 

That three-plus weeks of writing kept me sane. I told friends that my fictional life was better than reality, and it was true. My characters were nicer company than certain family members who shall go nameless. My writing filled me with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of hope. 

There are times when I have believed that you do need to suffer for your art. My dear friend, artist Woodleigh Hubbard once told me, "Nina, you are like an oyster. You can only create the pearl when you are irritated."Maybe she's right. But sometimes I think I need to revise my definition of suffering. We all have to deal with our share of tragedy and pain. You can chose to complain about it, or you can chose to use it as a motivator to improve on all levels. 

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I must say that I am thankful for my suffering. It has taught me a lot. I think I am a better, more empathetic person for it, and I think it has given my work a richer texture. No, it has not made me rich from a financial standpoint, but I feel rich because of what I treasure most: my loving husband, my amazing friends, this beautiful world, and the chance to speak my mind and share my talents. I am thankful for all that and more. 

I hope you are not suffering this Thanksgiving, but if you are, I feel your pain, and I hope you will find a way to share it and be creative.

Sometimes the gravy is lumpy, but it still tastes good.

With Love,

1 comment:

  1. Hey Nina, this is one of my favorite postcards, in fact I've had it for years in my studio, and could probably put my hands on it instantly.
    Keep doing what your doing, and I will too. I am immensely thankful for getting to do the work I love and I hope we'll all keep doing it for a long time. Thanks to all those who have offered guidance along the way.


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