30.5.10

Sabbatical - An artists way of life

I was just reading this weekend about how to take a sabbatical and was unexpectedly confronted with the possibility that my whole way of life seems to be a form of working and learning sabbaticals. I had thought of a sabbatical is an extended period of time off to relax, recover, think, be creative and try something new or unusual. Initially, I assumed sabbaticals involved long spa vacations, clearing one's mind and watching the sun come up from the porch of a cabin. Then, I started reading about the way people plan a sabbatical, how to make sure it's filled with stimulating activities, change and time to reflect. Wow. This is interesting because this seems like a description of the artist's life.

Of course, I am projecting onto other artists what I value as my own artistic lifestyle but assume that for plenty of artists, our lifestyle is a form of toggling between working sabbaticals and coming back to share what we've done or discovered.

Here's my experience: I enjoy life and occupation by clarifying those things (can be goals) that inspire me most and then shooting for them, embracing whatever needs to be learned, trying a few things, experiencing the feedback, spending time to reflect etc. The people around me experience this as an intensity of energy focused on a given topic. Then, once a period of discovery has continued for awhile, I find myself dying to teach, show/exhibit or "deliver" something before starting a different open ended journey. This phase of "coming back" is also a form of relaxation because it's more grounded and focused on simple, specific goals such as an exhibit opening, delivering a product or teaching a workshop. Interestingly, the "Agile" approach we've been using in the software development industry (my other love) also embraces these creative practices. For the software industry, these practices are framed as "new" but they resonate with developers because they are people who "create".

Eventually the pursuit of anything that involves learning yields a surprise and usually a course correction which again is a regular, core experience for us as artists. The beauty of sabbatical for many people (maybe those whose occupations have become rigid or repetitive) is that the open ended nature of a the pursuit embraces change along the way. While this is commonplace in an independent creative occupation, I think we enjoy a beautiful luxury as we live our lives this way.

The idea of Sabbatical for me simply removes the obligation of "delivery" or producing something within a specific set of boundaries - in any occupation.

Funny ... it's hard to imagine life any other way ... but I wonder ... how do you think of your inspired pursuits? It would be great to get your e-mails and open this conversation to anyone who might be interested.