Monday, November 7, 2011

Back to Work.

We’re about 2 hours from the city now, on the old grey dog again, and I’m starting to feel a physical longing to be with C. Except for I guess about a week last Xmas when he went to see his family – and we’d only known each other for a couple weeks then – this is the only time we’ve been apart for more than a couple days. Rough.

But there was honestly nothing else I missed at all. I know, I know, I would have eventually begun to miss it all, the people, the noise, the anonymity, but not after 2 weeks. In terms of pure output, pulling stuff out of the air and putting it on paper, I wrote more in the last two weeks than I’ve written in the last 2 years.

For two weeks I was an artist. I sat in a room and pondered and considered, wrote, paced, dreamed, imagined. The stories and images seemed to coalesce behind my eyes and fly around the room and land on the page. Page after page, and at times it moved me to tears, knowing that these ideas and words and sentences would not have emerged in an environment other than this miraculous place where the needs of the body and soul are taken care of so we can work.

And after a day of that, I ate dinner in a room full of people all talking about their work, sharing ideas, and books, and suggestions, never questioning the good of the enterprise, the worthiness of the labor. Those conversations and the force generated by a room full of artists vibrating with the electricity of their work, stimulated me to go back to my studio and often spend another 3 hours at my desk.

I don’t want to say that I’m entitled to that life – are we entitled to be our best selves? “the pursuit of happiness” makes it pretty clear that the guaranteed right is purely aspirational – but it weighs heavy on my heart this afternoon to know that it could all shut down this week, today, now. Because there’s so much other shit that has to get done before art-making.

Maybe, though, this burst of output will have its own momentum. I started writing what I’m calling a solo autobiographical musical theater piece. It's called Unprotected. The narrative structure is that the story starts with the end of a relationship and ends with the beginning of one, so basically from 2002 to now. That thread of the story will be told in present tense, but people and locations and themes from that thread will recall and resonate with other stories from times past, so there are stories nested within stories nested within stories. It has mostly to do with men, and mostly to do with sex. In a way it’s a reckoning with my sexual biography. Much of it will be spoken, by me, but there will be songs too, and video projections. Some of the video will be directly illustrative, like I'll mention a person and show a photo of that person. Other times the video will be more ambient or will comment obliquely on the subject matter.

It’s very far from finished, but I polished up as best I could an excerpt of what I had written and read it to the other residents on Saturday (it’s a MacDowell tradition for artists to present their work informally after dinner). I was nervous beforehand because, one, it's still in a pretty raw state and I rarely share work, even to close friends and collaborators, until it’s close to finished, and, two, the piece I read contained very frank sexual content, which is not something I’m shy about as subject matter, but this was, well, in the first person. It was very well received, with a hardy ovation, lots of compliments, suggestions, comparisons to favorite writers.

I have a strong feeling it’s good work, and I’m going to try like hell to finish it.