LAKE MACBRIDE— Almost every creative person could use more money. This has been true, not only for the vast majority of writers I have known, but for artists, musicians, potters, actors, dancers, painters, singers, theater technicians, and others who pursue creative endeavor. Very few people make a living in creative endeavor without working at something else for money that pays basic living expenses. It is tough to blend a personal economy with being creative without compromise. It is impossible to keep the two in separate isolation chambers, nor would we want to.
During my senior year at the university, a group of creative people shared expenses in an old house in Iowa City. We each had our own room, but shared the common space, holding periodic meetings when an issue arose. Residents came and went, poets, artists, musicians, a travel guide, a tropical fish breeder, and a mechanic. There was always something going on, most of it interesting, and some of it annoying. It was the creative life.
One day a poet arrived to set up shop. She found a job in town, and wrote every morning in the entryway. As an early riser, I encountered her often, and tried not to disturb the work in progress as I walked to the kitchen to make breakfast and get on with my day. After a while, and after giving a few readings in town, she left for California with another poet who was a frequent guest. She adjusted to a sparse life, focused on experience and her writing. Our shared moments seemed to be a way station on her longer journey. She swiped the cooking pans my grandmother had given me when she left, evidence she could have used more money.
That living arrangement and my undergraduate years were a way station for me as well. Early on, I was an admirer of people who worked a career and wrote, notably the pediatrician/poet William Carlos Williams. I thought I could do something similar. It takes a certain kind of career to avoid disrupting one’s creative outlook and I found my time in transportation and logistics wasn’t it. I’m thankful for the ability to earn a living, and led a full life. For 25 years, creativity wasn’t as much a part of my life as I would have liked. It took leaving the security of that work environment to enable writing. Now there is new hope.
Most days I get a chance to write here or off line. I continue to need monetary income to pay monthly bills, although I am no longer in search of a career, having left the one I had. That’s where gardening comes in.
The less than $200 in seeds and supplies will multiply tenfold in value during the growing season: home grown food reduces the need for money. I have a couple of paying jobs, and need one or two more to make ends meet. That’s life in the personal era of creativity. The good news is the garden seeds have been shipped.
I hopefully await arrival of the germinal package, and the chance to forget about money for a while and work directly with Earth’s bounty. Money may always be tight, but nature can help us survive if we are paying attention— and invest in the work.