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12/5/2020 / Issue #030 / Text: Pablo van Wetten

Portrait of an artist as a young hamster

The last time the ‘content contributors’ of Amsterdam Alternative had a get-together at the end of January 2020 (the last of the ‘physical meetings’ as it turned out) to discuss the course of things to come for the zine, I opted to write something about myself and how I tried to re- main level-headed as an ‘artist’ who aspired to do more writing, music recordings and film editing all from his home...

The deadline for that issue passed me by because I have more ideas than discipline and I can’t even remember what I did instead. Trying to get organised I would say. Feeling at ease at home is a new concept for me because I have spent most of my life moving from one tem- porary space to another and only recently have a ‘name-on-mailbox situation’ (the wanderer inside of me sometimes still gets nervous when he sees that little sign but it’s getting better). I don’t have a separate studio and although I have sometimes had access to small studios and have been part of several collectives of sorts in the past, I wanted to really try working from my apartment in Amsterdam-Oost. Although writing is only a relatively small part of my life, I guess I want to mirror the discipline and routine that writers adhere to as a way of life to bol- ster my productivity. I have always suspected that writers might be the craziest among the crazies and I say this with complete admiration. It’s just so bloody solitary, looking at words and harvesting thoughts, but the dedication seems so beautiful to me, so elementary and somehow so cool (there’s a literary word for ya). To master yourself on such a basic level just seems like an enormous triumph, plus you can write anywhere, you can be free. Well I had made enough money during the summer and autumn - working as an amicable low-level car- penter of sorts - to give it a try, could afford a couple of months just staying at my home, writ- ing and recording music. I would live off my savings and in March I would make good mon- ey again working the festival season. Good plan. I think of John Hurt in that movie ‘Smoke’, a writer absentmindedly walking the street of Paul Auster’s Brooklyn, a brooding intellectual with a blue-collar streak. I could walk through the Javastraat on my breaks, the only street in Holland that looks like Brooklyn at times, and go get some bread instead of cigars, shooting the breeze with the small shop owners, bathing in my eco-system. Oh yes I love the idea. Now I must confess I find it very hard to get a good day going. Inbetween all the meditating, jogging, morning pages, self-help books, staying in touch with family and friends, eating healthy, watching quality films, therapy, evening meditation, song writing, technical research, home improvement and video-footage on my hard disk begging to be cut, it can feel a bit overwhelming to strike a balance and find the right order of execution. What comes first? What is a good day? I struggle and ask for advice and google topics (I hate how that has be- come a verb) too much, too quickly. Still, being less hard on myself for a goddamn second, it takes time to get into new routines and after a couple of months just staying home, I can say the nervous feeling has subsided somewhat. I don’t have a lot to show for my time. I wrote only a half a dozen songs, learned to program a drum computer and music sequencer and played a couple of try-out gigs. I still get confused how to start my day right but I’m trying to be gentler with myself and not beat myself up about it too much. I’m starting to get there slowly. Waking up early has been very helpful, it seems I feel really good when I get a head start. It makes me feel less chaotic somehow and the dreadful feeling of the day slipping trough my fingers is dwindling. I suspect that in the U.S. I would be on medication. What do you think?

Now the world has turned surreal and I’m getting all these extra months to practise staying inside to further develop a good routine and become a productive artist. I’m not one yet, but I’m doing OK. and sometimes that’s enough. Look at the world, what have I got to complain about?

By the way, a piece like this one you are reading, is not what I want to spend my time writing about. I just felt compelled to share my experience trying to get going. Oh, and the title refers to me stocking the freezer with homemade meals at the beginning of the pandemic so I didn’t have to bother anyone in case I fell sick. I’m not really a hamster and I’m hardly young any- more, I’m just me. That much I have learned. Now if I could only find a good way to end this piece...