"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Sunday, June 26, 2011

CHEATED

"You must live like a bourgeois and save all your violence for your art."
-Gustave Flaubert

Ever since reading that quote in this month's The Nation, I've wondered...is it possible to fulfill Flaubert's directive in the society we live in? With the burden to “earn a living” that is hammered into us from an early age, shackling us in adulthood? The hammer and sickle that squishes the creative spirit like a bug against a windshield? If I live like a capitalist, how will I have the time and energy to write? If I don't, how will I live at all?

In "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter",

Carson McCullers shows us what mundane work does to creativity. Fifteen-year old Mick, a blossoming musician and idealist, has to drop out of school and go to work at Woolworth's to help support her family in the depressed south for ten dollars a week. Ten dollars will buy fifteen fried chickens or five pairs of shoes. She thinks about a piano but does not mention that aloud. She does not want to work in a ten-cent store but when they all start to think about what that ten dollars could buy, she is trapped into it. Her description of losing her energy and ambition to write music is a heartbreaking account of how hard it was then (pre WWII) and harder now to spend your life creating art without being independently wealthy.

In McCullers' words:

Now no music was in her mind. Sometimes a quick little tune would come and go. It was like the store took all her energy and time. Woolworth's wasn't the same as school. When she used to come home from school she felt good and was ready to start working on the music. But now she was always tired. A song she had started in her private notebook two months before was still not finished. She did not know how to stay in the inside room. It was like the inside room was locked somewhere away from her. She was mad all the time, only there was nothing to be mad at. It was like she was cheated. Only nobody had cheated her. Just the same she had that feeling. Cheated.

How many feel like that at the end of the day? After years of nose-to-the-grindstone, the inside room—a metaphor McCullers uses to describe our inner selves where creativity begins—is forever lost and life is sleeping, eating, and working. There is no inside room where thoughts are developed, stories thrive, music is written, and great paintings are created to tell a tale, enriching our lives in the process.

Can you find your inside room? Can you stay there? I think it possible to live comfortably (which is maybe all that Flaubert meant) while staying outside the retail rat-race, far far from the shopping hordes and the rampant consumerism of modern society. Whistle, sing, write, or draw with passion, whatever it is that lifts your spirits and makes you feel alive, but live simply, like a frugal bourgeois. Save your violence for your art, and guard your inside room.

17 comments:

C.M. Jackson said...

great post---you have inspired me to be vigilant and work towards keeping the inner room safe...c

Anthony Duce said...

Most artists I know can relate to this post. There is definitely a struggle and some luck required, to find and spend time in the inner room. For me, most of a standard life.

Liza said...

Oh my...this touches in so many ways. I am fighting the need to make money, and praying for the strength to keep creating...it is HARD.

Yvonne Osborne said...

C.M.
Thank you so much. Good to see you. Stay safe!

Tony,
A little luck can go a long way. I wish the inner room was my standard life.

Liza,
Thanks for commenting. It is HARD but necessary for the artist within.

paulgreci said...

I love the concept of the inside room. I think just being aware that the room exists will make it more likely that a person will connect with it more often. Thank you!!

Wine and Words said...

My biological father is a painter. He has never waivered into another profession in spite of making an average of $17,000 a year. Oh yes, he lives outside of just about everything. You can see links to his work on my blog. I wonder what other magnificent works or art, books, music, etc, we are missing because the hours spent creating, must by necessity be spent working! I get so irritated when the wealthy squander their time. Don't they know what a gift it is? A gift of time, to spend as you could.

Anne R. Allen said...

This is such an insightful post. I love this "Save your violence for your art, and guard your inside room." Creativity can be beaten out of us in so many ways. By tedious jobs, by pointless distractions (especially the tech variety) by an overly competitive workplace, and culture that values "winning" at all costs over integrity and kindness.

All artists need to be on the outside looking in, I think, or we don't get the whole picture.

Sarah Wedgbrow said...

you know, I don't think I could trust a rich artist. my idea of living like the bourgeouis? baked camembert with veggies for lunch, a creek walk in the afternoon,and a book in hand in the evening.
But, obviously this can't happen every day.
My father is a musician and a craftsman. He only has two more years until semi-retirement, but I think his work informs his music. It is certainly this that he lives for (among other things).
Intriguing post, Yvonne.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some days the rat race overwhelms the creativity.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Paul,
I think you're right. Thank you!

Annie,
Thank you. I'll check your blog for those links. I'd love to see his work. You're right about the value of time. But those who have the most seem to squander it.

Anne,
Thank you so much!

Sarah,
Thank you! I think the simple pleasures you mention are part of the inside room. At least they would be part of my inside room!

Alex,
Yes, more often than not. Thank you!

catwoods said...

So true, Yvonne. In many ways, we are to blame. We want more and feel that bigger is better. New SUVs are more important than food for our children.

Seriously, the fastest growing demographic of food shelf users is middle class families with big houses, new cars and big debt. We plae ourselves in a position to define success by the material goods we own, not by the quality of the hours we have left in the day.

Your post is inspirational and a wake up call to me to appreciate and use the time I have for the things that are important in life. My kids, my husband and my writing.

Thanks for this.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Cat,
Thank you so much for your comment. Debt is a scary thing. And so hard to get out of. I promised myself a long time ago that I wasn't going to work full time at a job I didn't like for things I don't need.

Pet said...

Since I read this Post I couldn't wait until I "reviewed the reviewer".
What an extraordinary piece of art is your blog!
I've written my little public appreciation in the believe that it will not make you any harm. You deserve a thousand followers more at least :-)
http://pencilandbox.blogspot.com/2011/06/frugal-vision-by-yvonne-osborne.html

Yvonne Osborne said...

Pet,
Thank you!!! You certainly have paid me the highest compliment.

I'm checked out your blog. So nice of you to spotlight me. I'm really feeling quite amazed and honored.
I'd like to have a thousand followers. More realistically would be to have 200. Mine doesn't seem to strike a mainstream chord.
But I'm glad you found me!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Wonderful post. Finding time for the creative part of yourself is difficult. I'm reminded of a quote from WOMEN WHO RUN WITH WOLVES - "Art is not meant ot be created in stolen moments alone."

We've got to make sure we set aside real time, not just the stolen moments.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Mindy,
Hi! Thanks so much for your comment and the quote from Women Who Run With The Wolves. I still have that one on my bookshelf. I bought it when I was a young woman with a subscription to MS and time for macrame and pottery and writing letters to politicans!
Thank you.

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