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Image turned thirty years old this April. As we reflect on what’s ahead, we asked fifteen visual artists and two singer-songwriters to tell us what they learned and how they changed after turning thirty. Click here for the full collection.

I don’t miss my thirties. Maybe the energy. I had a little more energy then, and it was a little easier to come by. But I prefer my understanding of the world now.

Creative energy becomes more tenuous as time goes on—not because I’ve run out of ideas, but I’ve run out of time to have the ideas, and time to develop them when I do have them. In my thirties, I never felt any pressure to get anything done except my own pressure. I’d start feeling a kind biological urge to create. It builds up in your system and eventually reaches a point where you have to deal with it. It would come with a sense of excitement, like I’m a bloodhound on the trail. When I get the idea, I want to chase it down. It’s the thrill of the hunt.

As I’ve gotten older, the pace of that buildup has slowed some. But what I’ve lost in energy I’ve gained in perspective.

I could never have written a song like “To Fit in My Heart” in my thirties because I didn’t have the capacity to feel what that song is trying to point to—when the hugeness of everything and the lovingness of it just overwhelms you and falls on you like rain. There was a kind of availability I had to learn in order to create a song like that. A capacity for a kind of ecstatic contact.

The potential for the contact is always there, even in pain. You have to be open to it, and it’s easy to ignore. It is the still, small voice. But if you happen to stumble on it when you are feeling receptive, it doesn’t feel small at all. But when you’re not, it’s hard to hear that voice. But it’s there all the time. All you have to do is say yes.

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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