It’s like the difference between meditating or doing yoga alone versus practicing in a group: You can do it alone, of course, but it’s usually more powerful when others are around giving off energy.
My friend Aimee over at Artsyville introduced me to the notion of co-working – bringing together like-minded creatives to work in the same space. The way Aimee and her pals did it – with ripened strawberries and dabs of glorious color everywhere – looks so inviting. But as I look around my scattered, dusty house (truly dusty – the kids have been scraping plaster off of a wall that’s getting redone), I can’t imagine such aesthetic bliss occurring here. Couldn’t someone else just invite me to their house every other week?
Still, it’s a great reminder of my craving to work with other people. Collaboration remains my biggest hope, but working side by side might just be the next best thing. Sharing a space can be tough for writers, who need a certain degree of quiet in order to concentrate. I get so tired of hearing of all of the NPR that my visual artist pals manage to consume in a week! Still, variations can work, like The Grotto in San Fran, which has spawned multiple writing communities around the country. Even if you’re semi-secluded in your writing cubby, there’s an undeniable buzz that can come from working near other who are also creating. It’s like the difference between meditating or doing yoga alone versus practicing in a group: You can do it alone, of course, but it’s usually more powerful when others are around giving off energy.
Years ago, I had a weird but wonderful job as the photo editor of a series of sports CD-ROMs at Microsoft. My co-workers were amazing – a novelist, two photographers, several designers. We went through the entire Sunday New York Times on lunch at Monday, compared Morning Edition throughout the week, and shared every movie we saw – which were lots, because none of us had kids yet. The work itself was repetitive and dull, but the company more than made up for it. Much as I don’t miss the 9-to-5ness of it, I can get choked up thinking about those people and their creative depth.
When I do manage to get out and work with other artists, such as my recent trip to NYC, I get so jazzed. The ideas just flow. So why can’t I keep that going when I’m here? I know so many artists locally, and yet many of them are mothers, which means we work odd hours and the overlapping times we do have sans kids beyond precious – reserved on week days for Major Cram Time or on the rare weekend evening for, well, Drinking Red Wine. (These seem to be two activities that most mama artists do quite well.) As one painter with whom I keep trying to meet so that we scheme about Creative Ideas together, said as I grilled her on her schedule: “I’m telling ya, it’s feudal!” At first I thought she’d said futile, meaning our chances of getting together, but then I realized she was describing the nature of her sunup to sundown, booked time line.
To break out of this, I’ve thought of hosting a monthly art night where mamas and kids come together to work in a common medium — clay night, say, or charcoal. My hunch, though, is that the mamas would be really into it and the kids would be wild and all over, and then it would just be that much sadder to have to stop one’s art making in order to oversee a time out or to clean up spilled juice.
And so I sit, nursing my tea, imagine the other worker mamas scattered around town and across the country, each hunched over her laptop or her sketchbook, keeping an eye on the clock before the after-school pick up and wondering, absently, whether to have soup or spaghetti tonight.