The Bukowski quote hits hard. Lots to unpack.
It seems rooted in an idea of art as poiesis, the truth that one is called to bring forth, not art as an object of aesthetics.
The “place and time to create” reeks of the aesthetic approach. It’s preconceived. And narcissistic (viewing oneself through others’ eyes, through how others imagine the ideal life of “an artist”). A narcissism that leads only to kitsch because it blocks the true.
The true is in the world. It is in the family, the job, the cats crawling up one’s back, the earthquakes, floods and fires. It’s in the desperate longings to create when one cannot, and the traumas that sometimes surface when one does. At least, I think this is Bukowski’s real point.
All of this resonates. And yet, I can’t go along 100%. It’s still true, but the sense in which it’s true troubles me.
While someone working “16 hours a day in a coal mine” will continue to evolve in terms of ideas, awarenesses, and the occasional fragment of activity, and thus be creative, that creativity may never get outside the person. For me, works count. And there’s no avoiding that these works require a certain amount of time. I’m not one who thinks art is ever justified by effort, but effort always finds its necessity. Unfortunately.
Compromised, perhaps, is my focus on “works”. Perhaps it’s the old Western privileging of the active over the contemplative life. But this is a compromise – at this point in my life – I cannot avoid, and this is where I must part with Bukowski.
But so much else he is saying illuminates my mistakes, also the positive developments.
For instance, I did make the terrible mistake of abandoning the social (because I couldn’t abandon the job). This went far beyond abandoning social networks. I abandoned anything other than work, music, and readings somehow related to the musicworld I was building for several years. This may have helped initially, in terms of forging my own path, but I had become unbearable to myself. It cast me into psychological distress, which began to limit the work.
On the positive side, I did progress when I stopped trying to separate everything into neat little “work” and “music” boxes.
Much of my work life involves code, also some machine learning, so I incorporate much of what I learn into the work. It’s how I augment the interface between my body+control surfaces and the sound production (think of a TheoryBoard type of thing, but completely different and specific to the music I do), so in fact I can make better and more spontaneous use of the little time I do have. The aim: everything from scratch, live to 2-track (Not there yet!)
If I had infinite time, or even large blocks of dedicated time, I would probably have gone down the path of more traditional “composition” not put so much towards this live-to-2-track method. And I have no regrets on this point.
The bits of time when I’m so tired, when I’m not feeling it I can at least put towards the code or even in rearranging the studio to be more ergonomic.
My basic schedule is: a few hours Sat/ a few hours Sun, freeze development of the system, work freely on music, if not record, at least get a few jams going, bring forth a few ideas that can be repeated again (maybe this is really the “performance”). Then a few hours randomly during the week, work on the system (the “composition”). Then again, many weekends I have to travel for work.
So, not perfect, not yet even fully productive, but I do feel a small sense of moving forward. Also trying to reach out a bit, cultivate the social, and hopefully be able to redress past errors, including where I have hurt people. Still, I strongly feel, I need to make some sort of change in work life to address the practical side that contravenes a bit what Bukowski has said. I hope the fact I feel something already being born, can save the situation somewhat. We’ll see.