Do artists take vacations?
Yes and no
Happy Labor Day to all who celebrate! I hope that’s at least a few of you—though I suspect that many of you are taking advantage of the extra day off (at least in the U.S.) to steal away some extra hours for your creative practice. What a life! As much as I have written about the importance of taking a break and embracing the occasional strange empty day, I also tend to agree with Eleanor Antin, who said: “I’ve always defined an artist as someone who never takes a vacation.”
OK, that may be a bit extreme—of course artists take vacations! But the key difference may be that even their vacations are, at some level, in service of their work. The other weekend I devoured the French writer Emmanuel Carrère’s new memoir-novel, Yoga, and I appreciated his admission that even when he had embarked on a ten-day silent meditation retreat—at which not only were smartphones banned but also books and even a notebook and pen—he was also simultaneously plotting how to write “an upbeat, subtle little book on yoga” as soon as he got home, even as he knew full well that doing so was in direct opposition to his reasons for going on the retreat in the first place. Relatable!
Before reading Yoga, I finished re-reading Lewis Hyde’s classic 1983 book The Gift, and felt extremely seen by a young Ezra Pound, whose 1916 poem “The Lake Isle” Hyde reprints at one point. Here’s the last stanza: