Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'I'm not lazy, but if I had my way I'd be lying on my roof sunbathing with a bottle of prosecco close by'

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It's Tuesday. Usually I would be writing this column on Thursday. But I've got to write it today because I'm going to Liverpool tomorrow, to do the last three remaining judging days of the John Moore's 24 painting competition. It's slightly frustrating; because for the last few weeks I've had a creative block. And this week I really feel like painting. And I don't feel like writing. And the irony is that I'm writing this column now and it's going to be really difficult.

To cap it all, it's a really, really, beautiful sunny day! If I had my way I would be lying on my roof sunbathing, with a bottle of prosecco close by. I came to the conclusion this week that even though I'm not lazy, I do the smallest amount that I can possibly get away with. This makes the lives of everyone around me extremely difficult, because I'll squirm and wriggle to get myself out of almost anything involving work, or dates, or deadlines. I think it might have something to do with the Cypriot in me. The Tree of Idleness and all that.

I've actually sat under the same tree that Lawrence Durrell wrote about, and the problem is that even though I've moved, the tree seems to be following me.

Hmm, what do you do about self-inflicted "it's all right, I'll do it tomorrow-ness, just let me daydream about this for a little bit longer please?"

On the other hand, I spent the last six months fighting in my head for a title for my LA show. Then last week, on Tuesday, when I knew I should have been working, when I knew I had a backlog of things with screaming deadlines, and I knew that on Wednesday morning the phone would be jumping off the hook and my office would get a real earful, what did I do? I managed to have three very serious meetings. The first one (about having this column published as a book) went without a hitch. The next, with my banker, which included lunch at the bank, ended with me leaving at 4pm, throwing pennies into the indoor decorative fish pond, surrounded by vast acres of marble, with an atrium the size of Mount Sufi, pissed out of my head and happily making wishes all over the place. I'd just spent the last few hours working out my will. God, it's a laugh!

As I hobbled up the Charing Cross road to my next meeting, my assistant did attempt to straighten me out and go through what we were going to talk about with my accountant. I stroppily said: "Can't we do it at the Groucho Club?" After having a bottle of wine at my accountants (and I must say it was a good, serious meeting) I attempted to keep the minutes and took loads of nutty, illegible notes.

Then all of us took off to the Groucho, including the accountant. I just remember standing there at the bar saying: "My God, it's so light! My God, it's so light!" I thought we were going through some early summer reverse eclipse. I kept looking at my watch, thinking it was 12 midnight, when actually it was 6pm.

I don't remember getting home. I don't remember how I got to bed. All I know is that I woke up very early with the title of my show beside my bed. Somehow in the middle of the night, of which I have no memory, I managed to write the words, as though my hand were guided by a poltergeist: "With you I want to live".

These words made me so happy. They had been tucked away deep down inside my psyche and I had to delve down deep into oblivion to bring them into this world. The words made me happy, not just because they are life-affirming and positive, but because they open up a true dialogue with my work, with myself.

I'm not looking for a revelation, but what I truly need is something that I don't know about in myself. It's very difficult to make work when I'm happy. But as I get older I realise this is something I have to try to understand and not fight against. I'd much rather be happy and concentrate on that, and look after it a little bit. Anybody who knows me very well will tell you that I won't allow myself to be happy. I will do everything I'm capable of to destroy that happiness. I'm often laughing and smiling, but caught in the throes of the moment. Before, if someone had asked me: "Tracey, are you happy?" the answer would have been: "Out of 10, four." Today if you'd asked me, the answer would be seven, and I can see a nine just round the corner.

Maybe I should be lighter on myself. I don't have to prove anything. What I do have to do is take pleasure from my life; enjoy my creativity, not treat it like a burden.

So as I sit in the shadow of the tree of idleness I shall cherish the moment, and take delight in the fact that even though shadows are dark, some of them can be really very friendly.

So, column done two days early - I'm off to my roof! Make hay while the sun shines.

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