Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday Open House/Open Studio

It's that time of year again -- approaching the winter solstice -- when one gets an almost primeval urge to light a fire and eat meaty, stewy, steamy substances (preferably while watching movies under a heavy blanket). It's also the time of year I like to throw a combination open house/open studio, which has become a sort of tradition for me since living in Paris . What can I say? Blame it on my Germanic heritage, but I'm a sucker for tables that are laden with rich buttery sweet things surrounded by candles and fresh holly branches. And hosting an open studios at the same time certainly does kick my sorry artist butt in gear to produce, for god's sake, so I'll have something to show for myself at this crucial end-of-the-year reckoning.

And, like every year, once it's come and gone, I'm so glad I did it, and I'm so glad it's over. Last week was slightly on the hellish side -- I was "en charette" as the architects call it (meaning, working nonstop on a deadline) -- and a couple of times I really did think I would lose my mind. Why are these crunch weeks always the same? Why do I always, without exception, become such a ramped-up (scary) version of me? There seems to be a pattern, which I am trying hard to understand, so I can perhaps harness some of this fierce neurotic energy and, at the very least, sell it off to a developing country or something.

Here are some of the key elements to my "one-week method" (patent pending) of preparing for an event like the one I hosted yesterday (can be applied to pretty much any deadline I've ever had, going back to days of writing papers in school). Feel free to take notes and/or print this out! I promise I won't sue you for illegal usage!

Days One and Two: It's very important to ease into the whole process, that is, not see the importance of getting anything done until about midweek, when there are only three or four days left to prepare and the to-do list is about a mile long. So today and tomorrow, just kick back, read that book you can't put down, stop answering the phone, and amble around the house aimlessly, telling yourself how incredibly busy you are, and what a crazy week this is becoming.

Day Three. It's especially crucial, just before really getting started, to have a major blow-out fight with your partner, say all kinds of incredibly dumb things that you don't mean, threaten to leave, make plans to run away to art school/the circus/Dublin/an ashram/a dairy farm in upstate New York (I usually have at least this many ideas; often many, many more), sleep on the couch, and cry your eyes out until there's no Kleenex left and you forget what you were mad about in the first place.

Day Four. Once the dust has settled from the fight, a sort of exhausted relief washes over you and you are READY to start working. (Actually at this point you are ready to do anything, out of sheer terror of the looming deadline, which is now only 2 or 3 days away.) So you begin, and the best way to begin is with a task that has absolutely nothing to do with what you need to do -- for instance, take my sudden compulsion to create a gift grab bag for guests in some old Christmas stockings...

Day Five. OK, the grab bag is done (whew! thank goodness that's out of the way!). Now you are working for real -- and what are you doing? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I think it's very important, for instance, if you are an artist, to take this opportunity to experiment with new media, or for that matter, a whole new style - why not? I've been painting almost nothing but portraits for the past three years, but I thought it would be really nifty if - with one day left to get ready -- I just sat down and knocked out some totally random abstract paintings "for fun." So I did. And you know what? People liked them. So there. Proof that the madness in my method works.

Day Six. This is the day before the deadline, technically the last day you should be working, so that tomorrow you can focus on the event itself. You are hopefully by this point in that special state of "flow" where your actions seem to be occurring of their own accord, and every thought feels strangely lucid and polished (although, also hopefully, you are not using controlled substances at this point, other than perhaps chocolate and tea). This is a good time to switch gears and write a song, or overhaul some area of your life, or do some other project that has been needing attention for a long while (in my case, I finally tacked photos up of friends and family on a bulletin board, after 6 months of procrastinating about it -- cf: October's blog about procrastination). This is also a good time to re-evaulate all past and present relationships, and remember every single slight (perceived or real) that you have ever suffered. But not in a victim-y sort of way -- just in a very calm, controlled, and nonjudgemental fashion, in keeping with the state of fluid grace you are in.

Later tonight, when you realize that the event is really and truly tomorrow, you will accelerate into an even higher speed and you will get more done in one hour than you have done all week, while talking to yourself in short, breathless phrases. (Usually at this point your partner is steering WAY clear of you, approaching you only to ask gently if you want some tea, or perhaps, since it's midnight, time to take a break for dinner? But at this point you are living on has become a meaningless waste of time. Would that I would feel that way more often!)

Day Seven. Time has run out and the event is only three hours away. Your to-do list is still half a mile-long but you suddenly don't care. The last few days have been exhilarating, in their own strange, secret way. You have given up trying to impress people, or show off; the work itself -- and here comes the cliche - has truly been its own reward. Time to get dressed! Look like a million (or at least twenty!) bucks! Make the mulled wine! And do what you've REALLY been dying to all week (the art was just a sideline)....set up that table with rich buttery sweet things....ahhhhhhhh. Success! Posted by Picasa


Blogger lisa said...

wait, wait, i have to stop laughing!
congrats with the charrette, something frustratingly and oddly dear to my heart. oh & please post a "totally random abstract painting" when you get a chance! ~ L

6:57 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Caroline this is a masterpiece! You have to publish this -- Granta? The New Dorker? I think you should be their Parisian writer-at-large, though I've never been sure what that means. xo Jill

9:13 PM  

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