“There were no parties, no receptions, no bourgeois values. We completely avoided all that. There was the presence only of essentials. It was an uncluttered kind of life, a simplicity deliberately constructed so that she could do her work.”
- Claude Lanzmann writing about when he lived with Simone de Beauvoir (from Daily Rituals by Mason Currey)
When I first moved to New York, I went out with a sculptor who lived the kind of life I imagined a sculptor would live: he had a studio in a loft in Brooklyn, lived in another loft, and drove a Ducati motorcycle. He knew about all the hidden, secret parties all over Brooklyn, the ones in places without a name and lines of people outside in leather jackets. He even had an almost-beard. One day I realized there’s one thing missing from my sculptor boyfriend’s life – sculptures! He was so busy going out that he didn’t have time to make art. He was more concerned with living the perceived life of an artist than he was in actually being an artist.
One of the things I’m noticing about serious artists is that most of them are busy working, all of the time. They live a pared down life, obligations stripped down to the essential ones, the making of art being a necessity. I used to think writers spent a lot of time at cocktail parties and other glitzy affairs, and maybe some do, but I’m finding that work is the most important thing for many of us. You really do become a kind of monk, living a monastic life of creation. Dani Shapiro in her book about writing, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, writes about how she doesn’t have time to have leisurely lunch dates. People think she’s got all the time in the world since she’s a full time writer at home. But she doesn’t. She writes six hours a day, just like anyone else who has a job.
There’s something relieving about living a more simple life, of making things less complicated, putting your writing first, or at least close to the top of the list, and learning to say no to all of the things that come up that you really don’t have to do.