Spring is tentatively approaching, with a subtle increase in temperatures and a small break in the clouds that have covered London like a blanket since September. I’m on my sixth book of the year, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, which means that I am halfway through the pile that resulted from my famous book-buying binge back in January. This one is about a gay writer from Mexico in the 1940’s, written in the first person, so I should feel an affinity with it. And I do. Every word that I take in feeds my inner artist, and strangely it’s not words that are coming out at the moment, but drawings. I got up this morning and deliberately the next few hours free, so that I could get on with my pencil sketch of New York. I only managed to complete one building, a square monochrome block in the foreground which stands there like a guard. It sets the picture’s intentions out clearly: this picture is about architecture. It’s also about a city that pays tribute to architecture. Every work of art I produce is like a building: it rarely gets finished in a day, you start from the foundations (the outlines) and work your way up, story by story, detail by detail, until you have a finished product that hopefully will reach into the sky.
My artistic allegiances are shifting, or so it seems. A couple of weeks ago I was mad keen to start a new novel; now I’m imagining just being a visual artist for the rest of my life. I don’t know why this has happened. Maybe I’ve reached a milestone in the journey to discovering who I truly am; or maybe I’m still scared of writing, because every published novel that I read seems to remind me how untalented I am in that field.
After New York I plan to draw something personal. It will be called ‘G-A-Y’, and it will picture a group of middle aged and elderly men, standing around a bed in what looks like a hospital ward, in which a much younger man lies, bound and trapped by ropes that he has deliberately tied around himself. It will be a metaphor for the gay scene in London, and now that I have it in my head, it will have to be created.
The ambitious part of me wants to buy an easel, some paints and a canvas for the job. If I was really ambitious I would say that I am done with pencils and the A3 sketch pad that I have been relying on for the past two years: it’s time to become a professional painter. I haven’t used paints in over ten years, but that’s not important, because it’s never too late to start using them again. The nervous child in me can’t bear the thought of trawling the art shops and splashing out money on paints and easels, money that could be used for other things. Soon it will be time to choose between the nervous child and the ambitious painter.
In spite of the dithering described above, I am doing well at being an artist this year. You could say I’m finally expressing myself in the way I was always meant to. What of the novel I always wanted to write? Well I’m sure this isn’t the end of that. There’s a lifetime’s worth of pain still in me, waiting to be expressed in one way or another. ‘G-A-Y’ will be one way. The book could be another.
I failed to enjoy yet another AA meeting this afternoon. It looks as though my temporary restoration of eagerness for the fellowship has dwindled once more. Today as I sat in an overheated room in Covent Garden, watching and listening to fellow alcoholics share endless gratitude for sobriety, I felt old resentments brush by me like a chilly breeze on an early spring day. What have I got to be grateful for? I’ll never have a loving male partner like that guy at the front. I’ll never be successful in a career that I find fulfilling on a personal level, like him.
Every day I force myself to post something that I am grateful for on facebook, having been invited by a friend to do so. The practise, designed to distance me from my diseased thinking patterns, can work for weeks on end. But when you have days like today, it’s almost no good. I’m not happy because I’m not making any progress with my social and sexual anorexia. No amount of gratitude is going to change that.
Throwing myself into art can help me forget for a few hours. Going to a meeting can be dangerous, because it regularly brings me back to where I am in life. I’ve spent half this evening wanting to cry. Apart from one brief chat about pizza with Ethan in the kitchen, I haven’t spoken to anyone all day. I didn’t stop to chat to anyone after the meeting. The secretary unusually announced that they were all going for coffee afterwards. It should have been taken as a sign, or an opportunity; instead it was my excuse to run away as quickly and quietly as I could. God, I am stuck, stuck, stuck. How can it be that while my life is as good as it has ever been, my problems seem to keep getting worse?