Those who've been reading since the beginning know how much passion I have towards the arts, and most particularly, theatre. That has not dwindled, this much I know. I love the pure joy and escapism of musical theatre, as well as the complexity of plays; how one can de-construct them in a variety of ways and never come up with the same answer every time. I delight in it and in the fact that this never gets old for me. Yet, while I love everything I've been doing on this blog and elsewhere, I've come to the realization that writing about theatre is not only a solitary occupation (and boy, is it ever!), but also quite a passive one at that. I don't create anything, and if I've been missing anything these past couple years or so, it's the creative process.
So, if I've been seeming more M.I.A. than usual, it's because I have been working on other personal writing projects and trying to get those creative juices flowing again. In the meantime, I turn to some choice words of wisdom from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, which I have been re-reading these past few months:
This above all -- ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be in the affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it. Then draw near to Nature. Then try, like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose.
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Rilke, the German poet maintained a steady correspondence with a young poet seeking advice on love and life, their letters chronicled from 1903-1908. In the letter from which the above is taken (dated February 17th, 1903), the young poet had written to him, discouraged at the rejection of his verses by a magazine. Rilke responds with the above, and then goes on to write:
Therefore, my dear sir, I know no advice for you save this: to go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.
It's funny that I should re-read Rilke's Letters now, when just a few weeks prior I came upon a letter of my own -- an email I'd received circa 2006 from a theater actor I had admired myself. If you are lucky enough to have been around to read the very earliest iteration of this blog, than you will certainly remember that those first few awkward entries had nothing to do with theater reviews, but with my own personal grapplings with the all-too-familiar conflict of Reason versus Passion. That is, my family's insistence on my application to nursing schools rather than art school, as I'd originally planned.
Those entries have since been deleted and now long gone, so I'll re-hash some of the advice which was dispensed to me here:
[...] What I've learned is that we essentially make that choice every day. I can't decide if the artistic temperament is an instinct or an endowment (like being smart or naturally strong, etc.) -- but it doesn't run itself. It has to be activated, defended, exercised, shared...or it atrophies and dies.
And of course, he was right. Nearly ten years later, the dilemma remains the same: Should I keep doing what I've been doing? Can I really cut a career in the arts, or should I give in to more practical, money-making ventures? Or is there a balance that can be struck? I'm still trying to figure this out, and where this blog ranks under all of it.
I'm not sure myself if art truly is a calling (though it certainly has felt so to me, at times), but I do agree with the above; art, whatever it is, is a muscle which needs to constantly be exercised and attended to.
And attend to it, I will. Hopefully I'll see you on the other side.