“Art is the proper task of life.” – Nietzsche
Having just returned stateside from a week-long vacation during which I did remarkably little writing—and no blogging—my brain isteeming with ideas. For the last three days, I have been seized by a frenzied urgency to get something out. And yet, I couldn’t place my finger on what that “something” was, although my mind continued to vacillate between thoughts on three subjects, both in wakefulness and in sleep: language (as it relates to communicating the phenomena of eroticism and creativity), self-regulation, and artistic vision. I simply couldn’t tie them together in a manner that satisfied me. Finally, last night, after a late swim, it struck me: These are the three central components of my thinking on what it means to transform oneself into a work of art.
Before I begin, I implore you to bear in mind that this post is longer and less conclusive than others. It also, at times, may read like a stream of consciousness. That’s because it is. I have not reached a point at which I can draw succinct, useful conclusions from these thoughts. I rather feel as if I am scratching at the surface of something much greater, and I don’t fully understand it. I need more information. I am hoping that writing this post will help me. So, rather than listing my thoughts on what it means to “live as a work of art” and offering tips for doing so, per the usual format, I am simply going to discuss the processes that have brought me to this point, both on this blog and in life. I’m not going to offer advice, and I’m not going to speculate on the implications of what I’m saying. I’m just going to talk. I still, however, hope that you’ll find parts of this post useful to you.
Create an artistic vision for your life.
When we conjure images of what it might mean to transform our lives into works of art, I think we overemphasize the roles of the experiences we make: of adventuring, exploring, traveling the world, taking risks, finding love, seizing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. And we pay less attention to what it might mean to turn ourselves into works of art.
As I continue to reflect on my own processes in the creation of this blog, I find that I take the notion of creative living very seriously. I also take the idea that I can make myself into a work of art very literally. I hadn’t considered that this approach I have been taking to my life for many years now, ever since I first learned of the concept (in college, I believe, when I was introduced to existential psychology), was actually the thing that was holding this blog together. Indeed, I’ve observed that when I discuss topics that are dear to me—nay, when I discussthe way I live my life—including my passions for food, fitness, and certain decidedly more feminine endeavors, I feel compelled to talk about them as if they are art. As if living them is an art. As if living—not writing, not designing, not cooking—is at the center of my creative life. And you know what? It is.
I also asked myself, with regard to these discussions on creative living, “To what degree am I describing the life I actually live, and to what degree am I describing the life I want to live?” Through the act of writing on this blog, am I articulating an evolving creative vision for my life? The answer is, “yes.” It’s a bit of both.
This wasn’t an outcome I’d anticipated, and yet, I could not help but notice that, while cataloging my thoughts, hoping to extol meaning from the connections, I may actually be crafting a more totalizing vision, which appears to have the goal of deepening my relationships with myself and my world, that is, living a more erotic life. I do this, that I can see, in two ways, primarily: 1.) through language and imagery, and 2.) through discussions that promote self-regulation (learning to tweak the finer points of emotion, behavior, appearance, demeanor, etc.). If this is so, then it would appear I am, in fact, doing for myself the very thing I say it is my life’s purpose to do for other people. No kidding.
Speak to the senses.
In a previous post, I referred to aspects of my education as being “one-dimensional.” That’s a phrase I often use to describe things that I’ve deemed to be lacking in some way. They’re generally either ideas, intellectual pursuits, or work-related projects (when I was a student, they were always term papers or other assignments) that I feel need to be enhanced in order to be made interesting. They need another “dimension.” Very often, for me, those enhancements require the interjection of feeling. I don’t just want to talk about ideas. More often, I want to talk about them and feel them. I want to encounter them. I want to give them color. I want to paper them with images. In that way, I come to understand them differently, and I can talk about them in an entirely different way than if I had merely subjected them to rational analysis.
It should be no surprise, then, that I have a tendency to give, or at least, to want to give, the vast majority of my creative projects, including this one, a synaesthetic quality. I much prefer speaking to both the senses (as many of them as possible) and the intellect than to the intellect alone. I view the latter as having a kind of partial conversation with a whole person. That is, perhaps, because of my own sensuality, my own reliance on the body as a way of understanding and interacting with the world.
Certain topics, I believe, should nearly always be addressed in a language that speaks to the senses, via visual mediums, poetry, or sensate prose, even when that language is accompanied by rational conversation. Eroticism is chief among those topics. I would find it impossible to talk about erotic experiences of any kind, including most aspects of creativity and creative living, without using a language befitting the subject. To do so, frankly, mars my sensibilities. It offends me. I believe that if you want to stimulate your own or someone else’s creativity and/or their desire to live deeply, you should speak in a language that kindles, one that excites and exalts the body and the body’s experiences in the world.
With regard to this project, I find that a large part of what makes the process of writing about my life gratifying is the language I use. In my last post, I mentioned that I felt writing about my own femininity in a rather voluptuous language—and in a voice that was meant to stir—lent it a kind of power. It enhanced it for me. It helped deepen my relationship with that part of myself. I can tell you that because of the way it makes me feel. I have an incredible fondness for the vision of womanhood presented there. I like to think that I am, and can aspire to more fully become, that person.
I view self-regulation, or the capacity to control one’s emotions, behaviors, appearance (to the degree that appearance can be controlled), demeanor, and other other outward and inward displays, as fundamental to creative living. The ability to control oneself, to correct oneself, to recognize one’s own emotions and motivations and respond to them appropriately is absolutely essential to creating a pleasing aesthetic for your life. The processes I describe in posts, like On Elegance and On the Art of Entertaining, are perfect examples. Those posts are, at their core, about aestheticizing oneself. And in a manner that is both pleasing to you (and hopefully some of those around you) and that emphasizes your very best attributes. I hadn’t thought of it that way until just last night.
Learning how to observe oneself through different lenses and auto-correct, I think, comes more naturally to some of us than others. But, I believe we’re all born with this capacity, and it can be taught. I know that because I taught myself by applying principles that I learned in school. It’s something I will probably be working on for the rest of my life. Why do I see self-regulation as vital to aestheticizing my life? Why do I even feel I need to aestheticize my life? Because I have a sense of who I am, who I want to be, and who I think I should be. And it is a sense. It is, therefore, best translated through manipulations of form. To be sure, I translate that vision here through the aesthetics of this project—the imagery, the font, the page layout, my graphic design work in social media posts and social media covers, not to mention my writing voice. All the elements of branding. I find it intensely gratifying to create an aesthetic around the artistic vision I have for my life. I question the extent to which I incorporate these aesthetic qualities into my daily life now. I sense that, through processes of self-regulation, I move closer to actualizing that vision.
I think I should tweak the About page to reflect some of these ideas. I also think my next post should be lighter, a great deal shorter, and a lot more fun.
17 responses to “On Being a Work of Art”
I have enjoyed reading this very much. What you’ve written is so full of creative thought, and the way it seems to have arrived on the page feels very creative.
Thank you very much! I appreciate the feedback. I write most of my posts very quickly, but this one I struggled with for days. It pleases me very much to know that it resonates with others.
I was so happy to open my reader and see what you’re writing about. I love the idea of our lives and ourselves being art. I actually posted on a very similar topic today using the Mona Lisa as an example. Although I am always looking for ways to beautify my life and the things around me, I’ve never looked into it as a philosophy, but I will now! Living more beautifully is something that I always speak of because I think there is so much room for it and we should fill up on the good stuff.
I am currently working on a revision of my own about page. I think you’ll find it enjoyable to just think about yourself and your passions and see what themes develop. You’re already off to a great start 🙂 Have fun darling!
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Thanks! I really enjoyed your post, as well! It was excellent. I think I sort of quietly adopted this philosophy years ago because it appealed to me very much when I first learned about it. But, to articulate it seems to make it far more meaningful. I, too, am always searching for ways to create beauty. Think of it as a gift! 🙂
Definitely a gift!
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You’ve crafted elegant beauty in your summary. I enjoyed every word as it captures the ideas and feelings I have for my life. Thank you for sharing your gifts!
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Thank you very much for your kind and sincere words! It’s wonderful to know that others feel similarly.
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This is an incredible post. You write “I feel as if I am scratching at the surface of something much greater . . .” (how often I’ve had that feeling myself when I’m struck by creative thoughts and tried to capture them!)–but I don’t think you realize yet how fully-formed this post already is! Yes, writing it helped! I found it fascinating to follow your stream-of-consciousness kind of writing and to witness how well it all came together; your subconscious and conscious thoughts were evidently working on it for the past few days.
You write that living, not experiences (such as writing, designing, cooking) are at the center of your creative life. But all those activities can be–and are–creative for you–and maybe what you mean is that the way you pick your creative activities, and the way you prioritize them, constitutes living–your ultimate creative act. You are talking about the architecture of your life–and architecture, of course, is a creative discipline also.
I also thought about what you wrote about how you don’t want to merely talk about ideas, you want to feel them. You want to personalize ideas. But that is the very thing that makes writing engaging and creative, that makes people LOVE your writing!
I could relate so much to your saying, “. . . my own sensuality, my own reliance on the body as a way of understanding and interacting with the world” as an explanation of why the “intellectual” aspect of ideas is not, alone, sufficient.
I could go on . . . I have made two pages of notes on my reactions to this post. Thank you! Your writing is wonderful and the way it is fuelled by what you call “the eroticism of life” comes through with clarity and passion.
Wow, Nancy, thank you so much for the feedback! You have no idea how happy it makes me to know that you thought enough of this post not only to compose such a thoughtful response, but to take notes! 🙂 I struggled quite a bit with this post. As I’m sure you well know, when it comes to creating, certain ideas grip you and won’t seem to let you go until you find a way to get them out. This was one of those times. I find that I really liked doing the stream of consciousness parts. It was a lot more fun and a great deal more interesting than I thought it would be. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend playing around with the form. I like what you say about all of my creative endeavors constitute my creative life, in a sort of hierarchy, or as in parts making up a whole. That’s a nice way of looking at it and, I think, accurate for all of us. Thank you again for commenting!
Very enjoyable to read your thoughtful, intentional essay. There is a grounding in it. There is also a deep pool of cool, refreshing water on the premises.
Thank you! Forgive me, but I’m not certain I know what you mean by “deep pool of cool, refreshing water.” Would you mind clarifying?
I will try. The feeling evoked was that of the same satisfaction I would get after being parched, then finding a, “deep pool…” My thirst was satisfied and there was a pleasant feeling that more water is available.
Well, that’s quite an interesting interpretation. Thanks for commenting!
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