Is Your Art Turning You On?

The other night at a local concert, singer-songwriter Maia Sharp talked about a conversation that took place when her long-term relationship was coming to an end. Her partner said, “You’re gonna make a nice girl miserable someday.” Maia must have gotten a certain look on her face, because her girlfriend then added, “Oh my God. You’re going to write a song about this, aren’t you?” And of course, Maia did. In fact, that line is the title of the song, I believe (which is okay with her ex, by the way).

When artists are on, we’re always on. Even in the hardest, saddest, scariest, or most joyous moments, we’re on. Often, I’ll point out something I see or hear, or I’ll stop in the middle of a discussion I’m having with my husband, and that look must cross my face because he says, “You’re going to write a blog post about this, aren’t you?”  It’s how I’ve managed to pen a new post almost every week for the past seven and a half years.

Pre-pandemic, I was loaded with ideas for all kinds of projects. They came at me from every direction. I had so much energy and passion and enthusiasm. Mid-pandemic, I’m low on energy, lacking in enthusiasm, and missing my passion. But I know it’s still in me because every week something switches on and I know exactly what I want to write about.

I heard the other day that even if you’re down, it doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten how to be happy. It doesn’t mean happiness isn’t still in you. And it doesn’t mean happiness no longer exists. After all, the speaker said, you can’t miss something that isn’t real, that isn’t in you. You have to have known it to miss it.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had several conversations with artist friends and I’ve noticed many of them expressing in various ways that they’re not as “on” as they used to be. The pandemic has made everyone a lot more insulated and, due to necessity or concern, many of us artists have not been out there in the world the way we once were. We’ve learned to stretch and to notice more things to write about or to paint or sculpt in our now smaller environments, which has taught us to see in whole new ways, and that’s good. Many artists, though, are now reluctant to leave the comfort and familiarity of our tighter circles.

When we do venture out, after so much time alone at home, we experience a bit of sensory overload. A writer friend and I just returned from a trip to New York City. We both noticed that noises seemed amplified, bad smells were distracting, and we were more likely to fixate on the ugly litter than the pretty bush it had blown up against. Our writerly skills of observation were still “on” but needed an adjustment. Kind of like how when you get a hearing aid, common noises like the click of a light switch or the whir of a bathroom fan suddenly seem abnormally loud. You have to retrain your brain to dim those noises and to hone in on the voices of people speaking to you instead.

The past 18 months have worn many of us down, so it was reassuring to listen to that podcast and talk to my friends and realize while my passion for my art has waned a bit, it is not gone. This blog is proof of that. I just need to find my way back to that passion, and I will, when I retrain my brain to stop amplifying the fear, worry, frustration, sadness, and anger and hone in on thoughts of gratitude, joy, and purpose.

So much has changed in the past 18 months. I certainly have, and so has this blog. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is how much I still enjoy writing it and still enjoy imagining you reading it. I used to think we needed passion to turn us on. Now I believe we are always on, and when we choose to focus on and enjoy that, the passion follows.

By Teresa R. Funke

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