Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Who: Kathy Valentine
Where: Austin, Texas
Recommendation: Making space
Here in lockdown with my daughter, I've been conscious the whole time of this well of creativity inside me, waiting to be pumped. The muses follow me around like vapors, restless apparitions with their nagging little haunts: Make something! Bring out the sketch pad and charcoals! Make art! Start recording! Write a collection of stories! Craft jewelry!
Muses don't like being ignored. They move on. There's always another artist, writer or musician willing to pay attention to their insistent tugs and nudges.
I trust they'll be back. Right now, something else needs my full attention. I need some space.
I'm making space, everywhere, in every way I can.
Space in drawers holding jumbles of anarchy. Space in clothes closets packed like a pre-pandemic mid-town subway train at rush hour. Space on shelves wedged and stacked with books, photos, mementos. Decorative dishes overflow with mismatched odds and ends. Every surface hosts its own little clutter party. Each nook and cranny, its own mosh pit. Even nature needs my clearing out help: The trees left a seasons worth of dead leaves, foliage that didn't survive the winter, weeds overtaking landscape. Potted plants huddle in groups, random and matching outdoor chairs are pushed together, remnants from a time when visitors would gather close together on the patio. I shove and push, pull and drag, arranging seating for a spread out, hoped for reunion of friends one day.
There's the mother of all that is space-less: the two-car garage that hasn't had a car enter since we moved in. Instead, furniture, my boxes, other people's boxes, band merch, bins, crates, suitcases and wardrobes, guitar cases and holiday decorations line the slim pathway I can squeeze by from the kitchen to the garage door.
Eighteen months ago, I downsized, by half, my living quarters — in preparation of my kid going to college in 2021. I tried to match my newfound small space to my belongings — much was relocated, donated, junked, re-purposed. But it wasn't enough. I'm surrounded by excess, a consequence of my particular blessings. I'm aware of Kondo-ing, and I've seen the Minimalism doc, and I want to be free, pared down to essentials, those which bring joy.
But there hasn't been time. Bookwritin' was a biggie. Making my last record. Now, all the projects are sewn up and making their way through the world, even as I stay tethered to home.
The pandemic has given me the no-excuse, buck-stops-here, elusive gift of time.
I set up a Sonos speaker in the garage: "Alexa, play classic hip-hop." To a soundtrack of Dre, Slick Rick, Sugarhill, Quest, I cleared and conquered. Then, on to new territory: inside my home.
Songs, essays, new book, crafty things: I trust those things will still be around, even after the restless muses move on. It feels really good to make some space. It feels like freedom. And we all know creativity thrives in freedom.
Kathy Valentine's new book, All I Ever Wanted: A Rock 'N' Roll Memoir, is out now.