Krista Tippett's recent 'On Being' interview with visual 'maker' Ann Hamilton played to a receptive ear. I often reference the 'On Being' interviews in this blog, and I do this because the conversations are often inspirational and confrontational (gently confrontational, but confrontational just the same), and they almost always challenge my current mindset, even when I'm unaware that my mind has set upon any specific belief or point of view.
Of the many insights and topics covered in the interview, what resonated strongest was Hamilton's insistence on using the term 'maker' instead of 'artist' to describe her passion. Not only is the term 'maker' more democratic, more accessible to the rest of us, but there is an aspect to it that is more intrinsically human - we are all makers of a kind. And while it's an important part of any artist's development to identify with the term 'artist,' to out oneself as being a creative person who will live or die by this path, it's also important to acknowledge that this declaration and identification doesn't make one special.
A less experienced artist expends energy differentiating herself from the people around her; a more seasoned artist uses that energy to welcome, to include, and to embrace.
At the risk of repeating myself (as I've sometimes been accused)--or of enacting some false humility (which I've often been accused)--every artist reaches a point where despite success or lack of it, the struggle of constantly reminding everyone that your primary passion is to create recedes into simply doing it. Being it.
Even so, I admit my envy was stoked when Hamilton recounted how the birth of her son barely, if at all, redefined her notion of being a 'maker.' She sees no conflict between being an artist and being a mother because 'making' is inherent in both endeavors. There is more fluidity with being creative in her own life, the caring for her son blurring with her artistic projects and flowing back out so that the artist's life and the artist's work are inseparable.
An aside: in Terry Gross's recent interview with Jennifer Senior, Senior made the observation that women in 1950s and 1960s referred to themselves (or more accurately were referred to) as 'home-makers' while women staying home with their children these days refer to themselves (or are referred to) as 'stay-at-home moms.' Senior's point was that the current generation of 'stay at home' parents emphasizes child-rearing over caring for the home, but it's also interesting to consider that there is more inherent separation from the world in the label of 'stay-at-home' than there is with 'home-maker.' Does focusing on parenting in lieu of a career have the same inherent separation from the people around us that being an artist does? Hmm.
Anyway, for the many years that I've been writing (and to a lesser extent playing music) I haven't traversed this schism between my passion and my life. I sense separation between the two as I often have to disconnect from the one to do the other. I suspect that this is where more work and more attention needs applying. Maybe the fallacy is that there isn't a balance needed between the two because there is no true separation between them. There is no two; there is only one.
See that? Even when I think the hard work is done, there's more hard work to do.