I love it when the universe conspires in my favor. Last week, I had one of those completely unexpected life experiences. I would be exaggerating just a bit by referring to it as life-altering, but it was an experience that, without any warning, invited me to think and change.As part of a field trip excursion, I was welcomed into the host’s private art studio. The host, a high school art teacher, amazed me at how prolific he was! Well over 500 paintings in his studio: most of them complete! On top of that, he was working on several commissioned pieces he was creating for family and friends.
In awe of the depth of his creative body of work, I inquired, “How do you make time to do all of this?”
I didn’t know him well, but what I knew of him led me to assume that “free time”was not something he frequently enjoyed. As a teacher with a wife and children, it seemed the only time he would have to paint would be weekends or perhaps summers. He confessed that his weekdays were busy. He said that most of his creations came to life on the weekends, while listening to music or using his frustration (often with the Minnesota Vikings’ lack of defense) as inspiration to simply focus on something more positive: his art.
It was one of those moments I wish I could have captured on video. But not the normal kind of video. The kind of video of the future, where what is seen by the viewer is narrated by the innermost thoughts of the person taping the scene. The camera would pan around the old, rustic barn studio and you would hear:
Wow. This man is a real artist. I know this because his body of work is tangible, right before my eyes. He is practicing the same kind of art that he teaches his students to create. He is nurturing the art that feeds his soul.
I call myself an artist too: my body of work? A collection of words. Strokes so carefully painted across my page to elicit images just as clear as those seen on each canvas before me.
If I had a studio, where my words could be displayed for all to see, would it be this beautiful?
Would I even be proud enough to invite others in to see my work?
My attempt at answering those questions would leave me unable to deny the difficult truth. As a self-proclaimed artist, I have not been nurturing the art that was meant to feed my soul. I have been neglecting my spirit and instead, have allowed myself to make excuses for not living up to my artistic potential. No more.
A year ago, my brother said something that directly relates to my most recent experience. Seeing my colleague’s studio brought my brother’s words to a concrete level of truth that was necessary for me to witness. My brother said, “T: intellectuals think. Prostitutes f*ck. Writers write. You cannot call yourself a writer if you are not writing.” While I laughed at the crude humor inserted in his statement, in all of its simplicity, it was quite profound.
The man who invited me into his studio is an artist: a painter. He paints. Daily. Weekly. Yearly.
He has a brick and mortar studio where he can display his body of work; where he can tune out while tuning in. I do not have that kind of private space, so I must learn to create a studio in my own mind: A space where writing becomes the only thing that matters. My studio must begin inside of me.
Am I a writer? Well, I am today.
And tomorrow, I will let the words speak for themselves.