Thanks, Universe!

This summer I had literally been thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice if something professionally exciting happened to me that required no effort on my part to make come about,” when BAM, my uber-talented friend Lauren Haldeman won an Iowa Artist Fellowship, which involves a free professional development workshop in Des Moines run by Creative Capital and, in the most Iowa turn of events ever (up there with one’s UPS man giving one a watermelon he’s grown), you can bring a friend. 

She asked me, citing my artistic potential but also the fact that I’m “not annoying,” and I accepted, of course. Thanks, universe! And Lauren (who is often in cahoots with the universe).

The workshop is not until this weekend, but I feel like it’s already changed my life. For one thing, I had to fill out a self-assessment in which I estimated how much time I spend doing art. Here’s my current breakdown of my waking hours:

Family responsibilities: 64%
Job/earning money: 27%
Maintenance (chores) [which I took to mean separately from at home/with kids, like getting the oil changed, going to Costco, etc]: 4%
Leisure [like working out, date nights, etc]: 3%
Creative practice: 2%
Art administration (promotion, grants, career maintenance): 1%
Rest: 0% (LOL, what’s that?)

I’ve never quantified it before. But numbers are power; I feel that now I know I spend, for example, two hours a week writing, I could try to nudge it higher. And I also can recognize that there isn’t a lot of give in my schedule right now and lay off the self-criticism!

The same questionnaire asked me to write down three specific goals for the next three years. I came up with two: 1) write regularly, and 2) start a book project. Even just writing those down on a piece of paper, all alone with my green pen, before even discussing it with anyone, is empowering. It helps me think of myself differently.

And lastly, I had to write an artist statement. I’ve never had to do that before. I liked it so much that I’m going to share it here:

For many years now, when the moment for self-introduction in an interaction has arrived, I’ve said, “I work for a literary magazine.” If they already know that, or more is needed, I add, “I also write short essays…about my feelings.” I say this with a self-deprecating pause before “about my feelings” to acknowledge the common critique of creative nonfiction that it’s more self-indulgence or therapy than literature, but also to subvert that critique in a way, to admit and assert the importance of feelings. I’ve written about my father’s death, my husband’s medical condition, the double-sided coin of parental love and fear. Right now, holding down a job and raising two small children, my main task is finding the time and mental space and self-permission to write, but many projects large and small beckon from the horizon: a personal, literary, and cultural exploration of breastfeeding; an ethnography of clutter; an account of starting to learn Korean (my mother’s first language) at the age of 44, concurrently with my toddler son speaking his first words. I’m currently feeling my way through these situations and will hope to find connection with readers’ own feelings, especially the more complex and less easily expressed ones.

Off to Des Moines at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, then! I hope the workshop doesn’t involve role-playing, and I hope things at home aren’t too chaotic without me. (First overnight away from the two-year-old, eep!)


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