When I was a kid I was a synchronized swimmer, briefly. Part of why it didn’t last was not wanting to get up so damnably early, and the other part was this emphasis on consistent collaborative energy. My preference was to be a solo synchronized swimmer, which, to be fair, is kind of missing the point of the exercise. I realized too, that I didn’t really want to perform, compete, showcase, represent. I just wanted to be in the water, submerged, weightless, able to move and manoeuvre between breaths (at one point I was able to last up to 3.5 minutes), to emulate the grace of marine mammals away from the noise of the surface world.
I suppose I’m still doing it, my solo synchronized swimmer act. Taking the plunge not into water but word, delving into the dark places between breaths, seeing how long I can stick it out before I rush back to surface in a panic that I’m getting too far to make my way back easily, safely. But always the depths continue to draw me in.
One thing I’ve noticed (for myself at least, because I never presume to speak about anyone else’s experience) about the thing that gives one the sort of joy that is surprising, unbridled, lacking in fear and conscious thought some of the time is that it’s difficult to permit myself access at times. There is this struggle (ha!) with the idea that it should be difficult, that I have to earn it. That could be ascribed to existence within a system where productivity is mainly celebrated when commercial value can be assigned to it. And so if I’m just creating for the sake of the joy it gives, what’s the point?
Which box does it fit in? What can we call it? How do we market it?
While I’m as much a fan of compartmentalization as the next weirdo who craves deliciously colour coded levels of organization in my physical world (do not leave me unattended in an office supply/art/dollar store where I can acquire tiny boxes for everything!) while internally isolating emotions from one another so they don’t collaborate and render my decades of learned masking techniques irrelevant (runs naked through the shady streets screaming all the way) sometimes the box is too small, and the labels and marketing strategies fail, perhaps due to an attempt to rebrand something as palatable and non-threatening to reach as large an audience as possible.
Art is lonely. Of course there are times when collaboration is beneficial, especially in music and dance and okay lots of things. Writers need readers, editors, publishers, cover designers, cats. But initially, the idea, the execution, the work is, for the most part, a solo endeavour. Ideally with a good balance of grace, some playful rawr-ness, and the patience to take a deep breath and go as deep as is necessary.