Thursday, November 08, 2007

obsession

It’s not a secret that I’m an obsessive type of person; when I’m into something, I’m really into it. When I was a kid, it was gymnastics. That’s all I talked about, thought about, and wanted to do. When I was a teenager, it was boys… and we can all imagine where that went. And now, as an adult, it’s pottery.

Last night at the mediation class I attend once a week, it suddenly occurred to me that thinking about pottery all the time is not a good, healthy activity. I estimate that I spend about 70% of my waking thoughts on pottery: what I’m going to make, how I’m going to make it, and how to sell it. Those are the main thoughts. The follow-up thoughts can range from obsessing about how I’m going to obtain more free packing peanuts to ship my work to what I’m going to do to design a better catalogue. And on and on and on.

I was noticing this because when I go to my meditation class it is really hard to stop thinking about pottery and clear my mind. Once I do manage to clear it and focus on meditating I inevitably fall asleep. Every week I’m amazed that I have such a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep in a bed, but in meditation class I can fall asleep sitting up. The problem is that I’m chronically sleep-deprived because when I go to bed at night I’m still thinking about pottery. Who can sleep when in their mind they are on the wheel? When I was relaxing in the hot tub after class I noticed that I wanted to start thinking about pottery right away, and again I thought, “This is crazy”. It’s like, ignore everything else and just wear a groove let in your brain where you feel happy. By the time I’m 50 I’m only going to be able to squawk about clay, because I won’t know anything about anything else.

I know that artists have a reputation for being weird and crazy like this, but I don’t want to be like that. I would really like to know from everybody who read this blog—not just artists—what they think about the most and what percentage of the time they think about it. Don’t be a chicken, it’s so easy to post comments on my blog, you can even do it anonymously.

26 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:31 AM

    I'm male - the answer is well known. 90%.
    JT

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  2. Anonymous8:55 AM

    I worry about money, as in not having enough, and ending up a homeless bag lady. Seriously.Even though I have a well-paying job, 401k, blah, in the back of my mind, I will end up living out of a target cart. My second, and more recently prevelant, worry is that I am making the safe choice career-wise (banking), when I really love art and crafts. So there you go, I am going to end up a bitter, homeless ex-banker.

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  3. I spend all day at my desk squeezing my waist and thinking about how fat I am. I know it's unhealthy because I'm 5'7" and weigh 125 pounds, but I can't seem to stop. When I'm not thinking about my fat I'm thinking about what I'm going to eat next, and whether or not it will make me even fatter.

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  4. Anonymous11:53 AM

    When I'm awake I think about pots -- when I'm asleep I dream about pots. It really drives my friends & family nuts. But it makes me happy!

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  5. I think about why it is that I can't get my mind to settle to the work that's in front of me, and instead goes bounding away to something else. Anything else. The more distracting from the work the better.

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  6. Anonymous1:01 PM

    I think about what the hell I'm doing with my life, and how my husband and I are going to work it out so that we both find (good, better paying, new - as in different from where we're unhappily at now) jobs in the same area, and how what I really want to do is have my own business doing something creative and artistic but how do I find the time? And would anyone even like what I do? And would I remember that what is really important to me is the act of creating something with my own hands?

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  7. Anonymous3:21 PM

    I guess that any of us who take the time to read your blog daily fall into the same camp--obsessively, compulsively addicted to clay night and day. I worry about what I am not doing, don't want to do, that I should be doing instead of CLAY. I am about to create a new studio in the garage and that is the other thing I think about too much. Love your blog--AND your beautiful work. Gay

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  8. OMG...I ...I obsess about everything that everyone in your comments does...EVERYTHING.... but CLAY is usually the subject of my mind and fitting it in amongst my husband,my children, sleeping...the desire to exercise... lose and maintain weight, cope with the terminal,aggressive illness of my close friend(I will get to that in a minute) and the desire to indeed do more meditation and get into a an ongoing yoga practice... and then there is the the spirituality life force energy issue that guides me around... yeah I know ...WACKY...The question of what it is all about and what is this obssession with my clay work and if it weren't clay... it would definately be making and creating SOMETHING... what is that???So... yes... I understand and on a similarly sleep deprived note I too can finally properly fall asleep during a sitting up meditation...when you are NOT supposed to fall asleep... totally... And then it comes back to my friend's illness, in the past year, she went from dancing at a party in my home to being able to move basically nothing but her face and is aided by a breathing machine and as positive as she has been, it doesn't get better...she has 4 boys ages 5-12.... who are watching this happen to their mom... and so that is what I am constantly thinking about and dreaming about lately... pottery would be better right about now... but basically she is proof that you NEED to enjoy your life FULLY!(sorry about the Rant!)
    P.s. don't you love when people say..."you are so lucky to have a talent and an interest like that" what they don't realize is that being an artist(a newly accepted title!) really is a blessing and a curse....

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  9. Right now, I think mostly of clay and glorious sleep, because I'm not getting any of either with a 7-week-old baby and a 2-year-old.

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  10. Deborah3:33 AM

    Took me a long way i.e. 5 years therapy 2x a week, to realize that my clay obsession was in fact a way to keep me out of this world, of my personal problems by not thinking about of all my fears. I`m still addicted to pottery/clay but It does not define me anymore.
    Love yr blog!

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  11. Anonymous6:51 AM

    Great post...thanks for making me think about what I'm obsessed with thinking about.... clay, food and my kids. For me the clay obsession is a good and healthly thing. I can feel the wrinkles in my brain forming. I can see progress in my work and when what I have cooked up in my mind actually happens and looks good it's a thrill. The food issue is a different story. I obsess about what I am going to eat to stay on my diet and then I do a u-turn and hoover up all kinds of crap. I then spend my mental energy beating myself up about it. Better to keep busy thinking about clay. With worrying about my kids - I have resigned myself that no matter how old they are I will always worry about them...it's just me.

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  12. Well, for way too long now I have worried about the fact that I have spent far too long working for a paycheck and being miserable because I've known in my heart of hearts that answering phones at a law firm is not what I was put on this earth to do. Being untrue to one's self, especially for a creative, is a special brand of self-torture. I am now about to jump ship and start a new life of making art every day...and now trying not to worry about making the kinds of things that will sell vs. what i want to be making, just as you talked about in another post. As a working mommy i have worried about my daughter watching me be unhappy in my work, which is one of the many reasons for the change. Money, or the lack thereof, is always in the back of my brain...at this point though, I am taking such a huge leap of faith that I am just believing that the universe is going to honor what I am doing in (finally!) being true to myself and offering to the world that which only I have to offer.

    Wow. Thanks for asking that question. I even realized some things about myself in the answering!

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  13. I too spend an exuberant amount of time thinking of clay. When I'm not thinking of clay, I worry about not keeping up with technology. I'm a web graphics designer/developer by profession and I have constant angst that I'm behind in this new language or that new software. It's so silly to put oneself in this rat race. I wish I can get out of it some day soon and just think of pots all day long. Now, that would be a dream.

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  14. Meredith8:13 PM

    I think constantly about how to be an artist and make a living at it, and how my fear of being poor or not a good enough artist keeps me from quitting my hateful corporate-but pays-really-well job. When I'm not thinking about that I obsess on how my discontent negatively impacts my husband and sons, and how to continue to work a hateful job yet be happy in life. If anyone knows how to do that I'd really like to hear how.

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  15. Anonymous6:03 AM

    Wow, this has really opened up a great discussion. I'm not an artist and I've enjoyed this peek into the struggles you artistic types have. The battle between doing what you love vs doing what will make some money is one all of us have, but it must be particularly painful for those of you who have been so blessed (and burdened) with the talent to create beautiful things that the rest of us enjoy so much. My obsession is to keep my life simple. I spent a lot of years feeling like I moved from one crisis to the next -- kids, bad relationships, stressful jobs, CRAP that wore me out. Now I try to live a quiet life with quiet pleasures. I'm never bored and I seldom have huge emotional crises. It took a lot of years to find that balance, and I'm totally committed to re-establishing it each and every day. Love your blog AND your work, Whitney!

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  16. wow, what an out pouring. i obsess about pots, making enough pots, making too many, the quality, how to sell them, who to sell to, if i should draw more - it's all about the making for me. lately i've been feeling rushed and just started to slow it down. i stay up way too late making pots, then feel guilty when i need to sleep in. i worry about my finances because my income isn't steady. i worry about my health and getting hurt because i won't be able to make pots... i also worry about my age because i want a child,and how can i tend to an infant while making a ga-zillion pots so i can feed the infant... and here comes the holidays, can i sell enough pots to make it a good year after-all?

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  17. I just saw your stuff in Miette today. BEAUTIFUL WORK.

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  18. I pretty much think about clay all the time. What I want to make, what I have made, my children enter into my thoughts fairly frequently, but right now, it is all about the clay.

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  19. as cliche as it is, i worry about not ending up happy. the more i think about the fear of being happy with my life, the more unhappy i become. it's a vicious circle.
    i wish i could just be thinking about my art. consider yourself lucky.

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  20. Hey, that I should happen upon your blog just now, having been at meditation class yesterday where I watched myself do exactly that (as one can only see during meditation, I think): I hought constantly about my art, ideas churning in my head, revisiting old ones, considering new ones, worrying about not being able to make enough work, wondering what I should focus on, etc etc. Completely unable to let it go. Apart from my art being my lifeline, what I feel mostly myself with, I think making art has become my way of finding validation, appreciation, which ultimately means love, doesn't it. Have to think that out a bit more.

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  21. Anonymous11:48 AM

    I'm also an artist and I think obsessively about whether or not to have children. I'm married, in my late-twenties, and have finally started to have some real success as an artist. I seem to lack that "baby fever" that so many women my age are experiencing.

    I worry that if I do have children, I won't be able to be an artist anymore. But then I also worry that if I don't have children, I'll regret it in the future. For a while, these thoughts were just about making me crazy.

    Sitting and walking meditation has helped me to learn to connect more with the present and given me a break from these tiring thoughts. I hope your meditation can do the same for you.

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  22. I think about how helpless I am to protect my children every single second of the day, about dying, about auto accidents, about abused children, about dying, where's my pen lid, about anyone I love dying. Then, of course, I am thinking about the state of our economy, our horrible healthcare system, about the fact that being able to heat one's home is a luxury. It's an endless cycle, this is pretty much 99.5% of my thoughts, and can you imagine how hard it is to fit in thinking about being creative?

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  23. I'm schitzo... I constantly think about how in the world to quit my job and become a full time artist or any other thing besides software engineer. But then I think about all the debt (medical) that we have, and how I will ever pay it off. And when I'm done with that, I think about what will sell in the etsy shop, how much work I need to do for it, and whether it's really worth it.

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  24. Anonymous11:26 AM

    I am a phd student and I worry about having chosen a safe, boring and unfulfilling path, rather than something I actually enjoy, instead of finishing various projects that would bring me closer to finishing my degree, I am totally fascinated with fiber and sewing, it's like I can't get enough of sewing and crafting. All the while I know that I need to finish this degree in order to feed myself. I am unable to settle my mind down at night because I have nagging guilt about school projects I have in limbo...I'm hoping for a break through...

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  25. I read a book yesterday about confidence, and it said that we can rate our abilities out of 10. Say your ability to make pottery was 8 out of 10, and ur ability to play football was 3 out of 10. There's little point in always spending time making our low numbers, mediocre numbers, bringing that 3 up to a 5. When we can concentrate on what we're good at and make them even more excellent. I say if you love pottery, then keep loving it, until you decide you maybe love something else. I wish I was that decisive and focused in life :)

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  26. Anonymous7:42 PM

    it is insightful to me that you obsess about clay to a stressful level and makes me think... i work in a corporate job. being an engineer is sometimes creative, but is often... well, dull and corporate! to make matters worse, the stress follows me home! but my time at the wheel is the time when my mind is most quiet- when i am most focused and in tune to myself. it is almost meditative in a way... i look forward to my studio time!
    anyway, this makes me wonder if we are all bound to occupy our minds with our occupations... no matter if it is our life's dream or something less romantic.

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