"If I'm offline, do I exist?" by guest blogger and Hampton artist, Emeline Villedary

‘“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s anchor. We are the compass for humanity’s conscience,’ 

-Harry Belafonte

 

I spend a lot of time pondering the creative practice and how to ‘fit it in’ with daily life. Throw in the extra challenge of relying on art to fulfill financial responsibilities and you’ve got yourself a real brain teaser. When I’m not writing existential posts on creativity, I work as an abstract landscape painter, I raise three children and tend to a small homestead. I have over 15 years of creative entrepreneurship experience, most of those were spent online in some capacity.   

Conclusion? To protect my creativity, I need to be offline for about half of the year. 

It’s neither convenient nor easy, but it is necessary. 

And here’s why. 

 

It is my belief that we, ‘Humans’, are a creative species. 

Whether you’re represented by a contemporary art gallery, or you’re a city clerk working at a permit office - you’re an artist. 

That’s a fact.

I’ll argue that it’s our capacity for creative, non-linear thought that has saved us from the edge of mass extinction. Tools, clothing, storytelling, shelter, migration? 

All are the result of our creative super power.

 

And 45 000 years ago, in a  Indonesian cave, a human put a rock to the wall and made art. 

Fast forward 155 000 years, and we have Tik Tok, spaceships, Marvel franchises, super viruses, the Internet, and all kinds of other fancy fast things (processing at trillion of data bytes per seconds). 

 

Convenient? Definitely. 

Dangerous for our creativity? Absolutely. 

 

Our evolutionary purpose is to create. 

But our brain needs time, solitude and silence to do so. 

It needs meandering and cloud watching to solve the intricate issues that perplex it. 

The creative brain requires discipline and practice to produce and dedicated play to recharge.

Think of your creativity like a toddler:

It needs equal parts stimulation, equal parts rest. 

There’s just no way around it. 

 

Creativity takes uninterrupted time.

 

Yet, we’ve created a world in which time is constantly interrupted. 

Our attention has been commodified, and technology, while sold as an efficiency tool, makes it impossible for us to do the very thing we are designed to do: create. 

While you’re struggling to keep up to date with the news, your work, your relationships and all your responsibilities, your creativity brain - your toddler - wants nothing more than to play in the mud all day and have a nap. 

There is just too much information in the ‘incoming’ lane for there to be anything of substance coming out of the ‘outgoing’ lane. Think of all you consume in a day: weather, emails, news, conversations, random vortexes on ________ (pick your social media), CoronaVirus, the elections, the daily  breaches of human rights and the damn planet? 

Our brains just can’t handle the speeds that it’s all coming at. I mean, our internal pace bunny works at 3 miles an hour. We have no standing chance against the processor speeds of Silicon Valley.  It’s no surprise we’re all in a creative fog:

To consume and create simultaneously is to go against the evolutionary order of our neurology.

 

We need  connectivity to create the user end of the art cycle,  yet we need time and space to access creativity.  On a bad day it can feel like we only have two choices:  

  1. Stay online and struggle to keep up: be bombarded with a 24 hr news cycle, juggle emails/texts/calls/messages, take in millions of images under the guise of “research’, be a good little consumer and buy, buy, buy and eventually burn out.

  2. Step off the Mega Processor Treadmill of the Internet: risk becoming irrelevant, missing out on opportunities, never selling a damn thing and eventually dying alone.

 

Bleak, right? 

 

If, as artists, we are the visionaries, yet we exist in a connectivity that makes our skillset difficult to access, how are we supposed to fulfill our creative purposes?

 

Now I am the first to want to embody the hermit artist archetype. 

Become a sadhu? Yes please. 

Build yourself a Bolligen Tower and write in seclusion? Is there a grant for that? 


But it’s just not realistic, nor does contain the cycle of art - which is to be created, and then to be seen. 

 

At the end of it all, I can share with you my strategy:

  • Work online to ‘get things done’ (max 4 hours at a time)

  • Carve out offline chunks of time, multiple times a week. Even if that’s just driving, drive in silence.

  • Set yourself up for an offline period of a few weeks when you’re wanting to produce something large. Give ample warning, and log yourself off of every device. In my experience, cold turkey works best.


It’s neither perfect, nor immune to lapses, but it’s the closest thing I’ve got to sanity. And it never fails to support me in times of intense production. This ‘offline’ strategy protects the corners of your mind that come up with the really strong ideas and it helps you craft a vision, free from the opinions of others. It may not be the advice you get from creative marketers, but at the end of the day, your wellbeing trumps your productivity. 

 

Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. 

 

In the face of today’s dumpster fire that we call home, it’s very difficult to access the more creative parts of ourselves. So if you, like me, are  feeling a lull in the creative department, take a break from the bells and whistles of the online world (dumpster fire will be there tomorrow) and let yourself play or rest - just don’t try to Instagram it, or you’ll overwhelm your creative toddler and end up with an unsoothable tantrum.

 

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