Those long ago, dust covered years when I attended Barnard for the express purpose of studying writing come back to me finally for analysis. I had transferred from a mid-western school because it was too confining, too rigid, not fluid enough for me. I wanted to be a writer. Only Barnard had a Program in the Arts. In retrospect, the program was not well organized or thought out, but it did present accomplished artists as teachers, and the students had more than enough freedom to indulge whatever vehicle they chose for creativity.
I remember the musicians, the visual artists, actors, poets and writers well. However, the program was a bit too fluid for me. I have come to think that the program might well have profited from a well thought out structure, a syllabus of study that anchored the artists, taught them the business end of marketing themselves, and at the same time permitted artistic license needed for young, creative students.
Around the same time I registered for class I walked into a shrink’s office.
I did not know it then, but the medication I received provided a sort of structure that my academic program did not. I suffered from confusion, mental disorganization and the general angst of the pubescent. Not getting any guidance, I decided myself to pursue college as it was age appropriate and there did not seem to be much else to do, and I plunged myself into the study of the creative arts because that was a life-long desire I was clear about. The future appeared unclear and nebulous. I accepted this as part of the artistic life and maneuvered the life of the creative artist as best I could.
With psychotherapy I became aware of Jungian theory among other psychological approaches. I exhibited a talent for psychology, insight and analytic thought. I had a ravenous interest in texts on anxiety and abnormal psychology, probably because I related to it in my own experience. My attempts to fuse this with the writing were disappointing.
While much of my creative work was well-received, I finished the program with less stellar reviews, my work was deemed “confused and muddy.”
The life of the writer is interesting for its financial endeavors. How does the writer or poet support his creative habit? For years I wandered through clerical and secretarial jobs, temporary and permanent. My life became chaotic as I tried to integrate art, finance, relationships and growing alarm at my own psychological dysfunction. At thirty I pretty much collapsed in a messy heap, and it is to the credit of the psychiatric profession that I found a way to put together the various parts of my personality in a way that was socially acceptable.
The Bronx REAL was an acronym for Rehabilitation and Education in the Art of Living.
It is here that I found creativity in therapeutic work like answering phones, filing, cleaning and the like. I started keeping journals which eventually evolved into poetry and the venues for verbal art opened up for me finally after years of patchwork attempts at creating an integrated body of work.
Quite simply Jung wrote of art as an avenue to mental health. However in my personal journey I found structure and discipline to be equally important. Graduate study and homemaking worked hand in hand to feed the creative fire I had ignited in my soul.
Forty years after college, three books later, I call myself an artist.
A verbal artist, a mental artist, and a woman who gleans creative food from the simple tasks of washing dishes, doing laundry and straightening up the apartment so I can sit down and create something at the computer.