the Art of Your Existence

Friday morning I was groggily opening the Washington Post Weekend section and flipping though the music articles. I noticed a story about a Baltimore band I’ve recently been listening to, Lower Dens.

I was intrigued by the tale of a woman who had pursued her art as a folk singer-songwriter and come to realize it wasn’t working, and she needed to let it go. As someone who has struggled , given up, launched again, been bitterly disappointed, given up, then launched again so many times in my art-life, I really felt for her. It’s a painful place to be.

But read on: Jana Hunter left her folkie touring behind, yet still tinkered with music. After a few experimental collaborations she formed Lower Dens. Hunter says:

“It was the first time that I had a band of my own, and [I] discovered that after putting some work into the beat writing, that I really enjoyed playing music, whereas before I had not ever enjoyed touring at all,” says the Texas-born Hunter, 32. “And, yeah, these guys, we work well together. . . . I decided that I would like to write more songs if they’d be willing to continue playing with me.”

I’m noticing that Hunter went from a solo career to a collaborative one. As an introvert who has often been confounded by how much solitude is too much, I’m having a bit of renaissance in this area myself. Imagine a team of creatives with a similar passion for certain goals, who’s skills complement each others’, working toward something bigger and more impactful that anything I could create alone. I had a job interview this week, the first in many years, if ever, where such a team felt possible.

But the very best treat of this significant article for me is Jana Hunter’s final quote:

It’s all about being “shamelessly self-confident,” Hunter says, “just kind of looking into the art of your existence and accepting that in order to really contribute anything to this world you have to believe you are entitled to that responsibility.”

I’ve known for years that I needed more self-confidence. But how to get it? People and books have glib advice, but I’ve never found much traction in years of effort. But something about this statement, where she conflates confidence and creativity, existence and contribution, entitlement and responsibility, seems to wrap the mystery together in a way that I am getting it.

I AM a creative, and I want to give. It’s essential to my existence that I continue to create whether it pays me or not. We artists ARE entitled, we’ve been given certain gifts. That gives us a responsibility to move into the world with our art. In order to sustain ourselves, we have to feed the spirit that keeps us moving. We have to have confidence to act despite the lack of validation, signposts, or paychecks.

It’s how we live, and how we give.

3 thoughts on “the Art of Your Existence”

  1. Thank you for sharing the gifts of both Jana Hunter’s insight and your insight. Let’s all remember that creative gifts bring with them an entitlement to express ourselves creatively along with the responsibility to do just that. For some of us it’s a struggle to hold on to the twin notions that we’re not only entitled to bring our creativity into the world but also have a responsibility to do that. Keep on reminding us.

  2. I finally have re-found and enjoyed reading this and your other recent posts. Your discussion about the creative quest validates something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately…Last fall I went through The Artist Way book, seeking to become more confident and persuaded about my own creativity. I do some hand spinning when the mood strikes, and play my dulcimer when the mood strikes and I do like to write now and then but none of these media has really seemed to be the “it”or the “aha” that I was convinced dwelt somewhere inside my soul. After months of journaling and thinking and being honest, I have come to realize all over again that my first and best creative love is gardening, painting the landscape rather than the canvas. It is not a media I have seen mentioned in the discussions of art and creativity but it should be. Maybe those doing the discussing rarely think of a garden as an art form intellectually, but I’m guessing they do almost without conscious thought when standing in one surrounded by beauty…So, thanks for jogging my thoughts again with your engaging encouragement to recognize and celebrate the particular creativity we bring to the world and those who live in it.

  3. Well put, Patrise. If we know anything about the brain, it’s that biologically, we ALL have that creative part of ourselves that needs to be expressed, yet we live in such a left-brained society, it is too often neglected or suppressed. Thank you for reminding me to pay attention to my own creative self, and those who create in many art forms, around me. Your work is awsome!
    Ahhh, such beauty around us to notice!
    Clare

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