I have some kind of machine, sleek and simple like a saucer sled, and in the beginning I can lift up and take off without a thought. I can feel the surge of power propelling me upwards, the same as opening the throttle on a motorcycle: intimate, responsive, thrilling. As the dream goes on, though, the power drains out. It diminishes until I can only take off with great effort, or, finally, am left trip-stumbling along the ground, unable to make it go.
Each time I have the dream, the details are a little different -- the scenery from above, the mechanism of the flying machine -- but the trajectory is always the same. The exhilaration of the ability to take flight, followed by the crushing disappointment of losing it.
I had this dream the other night, and it finally occured to me that it is exactly the feeling I have about painting.
Sometimes it's so effortless and intuitive, I really do feel propelled forward, elated by the energy of it.
The very next day I will expect to launch myself again, and will fall ass-over-teakettle into mistake after mistake until I resign for the day, cross-eyed and cursing.
I talked to Jason about it, who is a writer, so he understands the fickleness of creative flow, and he said, "yeah, and you still have to start out each day expecting to fly."
It's taken for granted, this hallmark of making art. It's the quintessential cliche: ah, the struggle.
I can appreciate it a day or two later -- it's just the nature of the thing, and there's no use in trying to understand it. But when I'm in the thick of it I want to break brushes, slash canvases, rend garments. I want to pull down the curtain and see everyone else's mistakes.
It's lucky to fly, and it's out of my control. My work is to stand up again, arms extended.