I have begun to read Wheesht, a book by Kate Davies, a knitwear designer I have long admired. My dear friend Ellen gave me this book some time ago and I never got around to reading it. Creative Making in Uncertain Times is the subtitle and I came across the book yesterday in an upstairs bookshelf as I was feverishly organizing, sorting and clearing out my studio. The book is copyrighted 2019, an auspicious date as we now know what the world was plunged into not long after that. The subtitle alone made me stop and hold onto it and so begin to read it, even though I do not yet know what the title means. What is certain is that the author’s life has been interrupted by uncertainty. She has had to wrestle with what creativity looks like when her mind longs for one thing without knowing whether her body was able. I am reading with relish.
“What if we just stopped wishing for creative freedom and thought more carefully about what impediment and limitation might importantly have to show us?” pg. 14.
From the start, Kate poses several poignant questions that resonate deeply with me. As I read this question, I could feel my own desire to live a life free of surgeries, cancers, diagnoses, Alzheimer’s, etc. I’m often drawn into thinking that I would be so much more the artist I was meant to be if only these things were not regular “interruptions” in my life. With each perceived interruption (ie. difficulty, hardship, even daily chores and necessities) I begin to wonder if any of the creative making is worth the effort, whether I have the stuff to keep going, or if it will in the end make a difference at all. With each new challenge I am often launched into new mediums, or old ones resurrected. My creative focus shifts, and a host of questions emerge, some new, but most are old well-worn places where I have scratched my head so many times I should be bald.
“How might things change if we stopped aiming for certainty or conviction and rather accepted the self-questioning nature of our work as its necessary condition?” pg. 14.
This will be a good read for me at this time. June has felt like a complete halt of the trajectory I was on from mid-March to the end of May. Well, I shouldn’t say “complete”, as I have been drawing, marking the pages of my sketchbook along the way as I travel, return home, travel again and now face a challenging week. The temptation is to wonder if I will soon be free to pursue the creative making I long to do? Davies’ suggestion in this book is that even June, in all the circumstances and challenges it has brought, has been an important part of the work of making.
What if I could actually accept all of it as important, even necessary, to the work of creativity? What if I could stop striving for a place of complete freedom? What if I accepted all the self-questioning, all the shifts and turns which happen so frequently due to hardship, uncertainty, difficulty and doldrums? Could I lean into these things as part and parcel to the calling to make ‘art’, or to at least make ‘stuff’? Is our creative work happening ONLY when we are holding our needles? Is it ONLY when I put pen to sketchbook tracing the lines of my days? Is it ONLY in the spinning of a spindle with wool in hand? Or does the work of creating also happen in the everything in-between? I have certainly known this to be true in the past! Why then do I still land in deep places of uncertainty in this regard?
No matter how I might answer this, the fact that I continually discover fellow creatives to encourage me along the way is simply magical. I believe it is a character in one of Sarah Addison Allen’s books who believes that books come to us exactly when they are needed. I’m excited to read more of Kate Davies’ book. I’m eager to find out what the word wheesht means. And I’m wanting to share it with you dear reader, in hopes that it might encourage you as well to continue your own creative making in uncertain times.