And now that I've been home, I'm realizing it's going to be a lot harder to acclimate than I ever imagined. When I taught creative writing, I used to tell my students that they didn't need me; that if they simply wrote every day for an hour for the semester, by the end they would be better writers simply from the act of writing. I grew so much as an artist in that month, simply from the sheer joy of working. I was free to play, unencumbered by the feeling that someone was looking over my shoulder. I didn't angst about whether the scripts I was working on were "commercially viable", or that anyone would even "get" them. I had total creative freedom, only limited by me.
But everything it seems--every experience in our lives--comes down to the people, doesn't it? I called the residency a super cross-pollination of ideas. I knew that Jose Rivera had written that playwriting was closer to poetry and music than the novel, but at VSC I lived it. I feel playwriting is also related to sculpting and painting, given the three-dimensional worlds we create. Coming from a photography background, I knew I approached my writing from a visual perspective (and even more so, I understand now why so many people in Boston don't "get" my work: I'm approaching it from a completely different place from what their traditional theater training taught them. They literally can't see what I see.) For thirty days I was in conversation with 49 other painters, sculptors, media artists, poets, fiction writers, and multidisciplinary artists from all over the world who didn't necessarily fit the traditional model of their work either. Words like "fertile" and "incubator" and "cutting edge" come to mind. I can't tell you what an ego boost it was to be included in that group. In the middle of the first week, I emailed a collaborator here in Boston, writing, "...they're all like us!" I did a reading of one of the scripts I was working on, and everyone to a person loved it. This is a script that some people in Boston have literally laughed at and made fun of. This isn't the first time I've experienced this kind of behavior and I've persevered, but I can't tell you the relief when that sort of childish and unprofessional behavior is removed from your life.
Acclimating back to this life, I'm finding, is harder than I thought it was going to be.
At the bottom of all of this, I think, was that there was no small talk in Vermont. I met a visual artist from Germany who showed me the feeling I have whenever I come home to Boston, whether it's from Vermont, New York, Paris, or Los Angeles, with images of her feeling cramped and claustrophobic, wearing her childhood clothes. One night I spoke at length with a sculptor in her seventies, again from Germany, about dying and how we're facing that step in our lives. A poet from Sweden asked me what my greatest fear was, and she told me hers, then we talked about that. I saw a painter from Seattle morph into a playwright, and she confided in me the reason why. I spoke at length to a poet who had grown up in Baltimore, worked in factories, went from photography to playwriting to poetry, and he shared with me in the most generous way his life story, telling me to persevere. I have a ton of stories like these. I had the pleasure and the honor to be among some of the most vibrant, accomplished artists so willing to share and be open to any and all ideas, and it's not easy returning to our world filled with compromise, with the mundane, with people who think they are so hip and with it, but really are so steeped in, and tied to, the conventional and are blind to that fact and ram it down your throat like a dose of medicine, for your own good. (God bless the beasts and children, eh?) It makes me so angry.
Right now, out on the streets of Boston, it looks like a riot. The Patriots won the Super Bowl, millions are clogging the streets for a victory parade in the rain, and SWAT teams and militarized police are everywhere. A world gone crazy, it seems. I'm sitting in the back of a coffee shop whose name I'd rather not mention because it's a nice hideaway, it has excellent wifi, and I don't want others to know about it. And honestly? Right now I feel like the loneliest person in the world.