It is strange to think I have already been here at Stuttgart for three weeks. On one hand, Delhi seems so ridiculously far away that it must have been years. On the other hand, where did the three weeks go, and why do i not feel fully in the groove yet? This was the entire length of some of my other residencies — Sangam House, for instance– and here it feels like it has barely begun.
I did finish a whole new draft of the book, one that is structurally very different from the last 6 or 7 drafts, in ways that definitely feel so much more honest, organic, even fun. And I did some 12 doodles towards this. And I began research and reaching out to people for my next project. And I have done a fair bit of logistical runnabouttery trying to figure out ceramics space. Plus it turns out that settling into a new country, especially one that loves its bureaucratic paperwork, takes a long time… I finally have a bank account (but still no debit card to use it with) and in a day or two I should have a bus pass as well, after which I should be totally settled in logistically. This is not too little for three weeks, and yet, it is hard to understand where the time went, what I am making of it.
A couple of us were talking with the program director, Mr Joly, this evening, and one of the fellows said something about how wonderful it was to be in a space conducive to artistic work without any particular deadlines or expectations. Mr. Joly responded that that is one of their criteria when selecting fellows — making sure they look for people who are grown enough in their artistic practice that they will be more internally driven to use this time well than the drive any external deadlines could exert. It makes sense to me, this idea of letting people meander and find their ways to the work they are here to do, and it makes me wonder what using the time “well” entails.
Every other day or so, I make elaborate schedules of my workday, but I have not yet once stuck to my schedule. In an imaginary universe my workday is structured from 10:30 AM to 6 PM, but in reality, I often only get down to working properly after lunch, and then I often work much later into the night than I am accustomed to. I struggle to wake up before the sun rises (which can be as late as 8:30 AM here), but then I am amazed at how much of an evening I have left after the sun has set. I am sometimes too tired to be social, and at other times, I am too deep in wonderful conversations with new friends to be tired. Above all, I am amazed at how much time my brain likes to keep for staring out of windows… I like to tell myself that I am unconsciously processing important manuscript questions as I do so, and in some cases I am, but in others, I know I am just savouring slowness, the incredible luxury of doing less, of stepping out of a hyper-productive lifestyle and noticing the way the snow melts on the rooftops my window looks out at. Surely this is valuable in its own right, regardless of whether it shows up in the manuscript.
Even as I say that, I am planning out the next week, the next month, promising myself a more productive February. But even as I do so, I know that the greatest gift of these 6 months might simply lie in the learning to follow my body and mind where they take me rather than controlling the process too tightly from the outset. Let us see where this goes.