Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What's with Today, today?

I have a distinct memory of being a five year old with a fistful of crayons, looking up at my parents in the living room of the home I grew up in, and telling them I wanted to be a starving artist when I grew up. I didn't know exactly what it meant, but I had heard the phrase before and knew it applied to people who made art but didn't make a living on their art. My plan was to be ridiculously famous when I was dead. It seemed a little tragic, even to my five year old brain, but at the same time, it seemed inconsequential to have fame and fortune while I was alive. What did it matter, after all? So long as people loved my art at some point in history, then it served its purpose.

But I allowed the world to slowly jade me into trying to find practical applications for my art. When I was a sophomore in high school, I met my best friend. She was an artist, too. She wanted to be a graphic designer. I had never heard of a graphic designer. All these years of doing book reports on who I admire most about Leonardo Da Vinci, no one ever gave me a talking to about what I might be able to do with my artistic talent. How I might develop my skills into something I could make a living with. So, I looked into it and this became our joint dream. We'd suffer through our Christian private high school experience and go to a glorious art school where we'd get our graphic design degrees and go into advertising. Except there was one problem: I hated advertisements.

I considered web design, but I hate Photoshop and I hate doing art on a computer in general. What appealed to me about art was the gritty feeling of paint drying under my fingernails and the feel of a palette knife on a canvas. It was graphite dusted hands and oil pastel stained clothes. It was creating something out of nothing. That's what I loved. And computer graphics just seemed like creating nothing out of nothing. It wasn't tangible enough. Sure, I could print it out and hold it if I wanted, but it just didn't feel the same as slowly seeing something take shape as it just flows from your being.

My left brain logical practicality was fighting with my right brain will to be free and to just do whatever I felt as I felt it. It always has, really. With every piece, I tried to have a vision in mind for the finish product and it stopped me in my tracks too many times because I'd always fall short either because my skills weren't up to it or I would just become afraid. Paintings that would take months and a litany of compromises to finish and large pencil drawings that would never, ever be finished, though the parts of them that are done are nearly perfect. It was the times when I had no idea what I was going to do or what colors I was going to use or if it would even have a shape that I feel like my best work would appear effortlessly before me. When I would just create for the sake of creating.

Now, as a thirty-two year old, I'm still struggling with that practicality versus creation for the sake of creation that drives me. It doesn't help that I married a staunchly left brained software developer who is constantly asking me those "tough questions" about what I intend to do with my artistic ventures, in the practical sense. He doesn't understand that sometimes, you just need to start creating and somewhere along the way, you'll begin to understand why and where it's going and suddenly you'll look up and you're there at the finish with a masterpiece. No, you have to have an endgame before you can even begin, he thinks. And he's not wrong. Most people think like him. But I don't.

I just want to create. I want to write without the necessity of publishing hanging over my head. I want to paint without having to have a gallery showing or a place to sell my work. I want to draw without needing to know if I can sell prints of it when it's done. I need to just work my hands into the flow and feel them creating something beautiful. My soul's purpose on this earth is to bring beauty into the world so that the pain of living might be eased if only for a moment.

I need to stop putting practical constraints on my art. I need to stop compromising with the way the world thinks I should to create. I need to just make stuff and worry about the purpose of it later. The doing is its own reward.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Story of Me That I Tell Myself

I began writing on Monday with this prompt. It was the idea that we're all constantly feeding ourselves a narrative of who we are and who we choose to present to the world. Immediately, the song The Best Imitation of Myself by Ben Folds Five popped in my head. I started thinking about how we withhold parts of ourselves from people and even from ourselves sometimes. I just let whatever popped up first pop up and I followed that train of thought to my sixth grade year in a hellish public school that more closely resembled a prison. I'm not being dramatic. I'm talking two police officers per hallway (six in total), a fifteen foot razor wire perimeter fence making the only accessible entrance the front doors, and just a general atmosphere of just trying to keep kids from killing each other and not giving a shit about them above that. Or at least that was my experience. My parents seemed to agree enough to put me in private school the following year. My experience there was just as alienating, but not nearly as ruthlessly cruel.

That's what has poured out for the past two days. All my experiences of being judged and seen as unworthy by others for whatever reasons they felt like finding. My clinging to life and finding inspiration in the most unlikely places. Or maybe they were obvious. In hindsight, they seem to be. But that's what hindsight is all about. I started straying somewhere around 4100 words. I was getting scattered, losing the focus of the essay. I was trying to tell how I picked up various values throughout my life and got caught up in just describing experiences. Not tying them back to a theme. Not telling them with a purpose just telling them to tell them. I know as I edit, I can create that depth and I need to just keep moving forward. Or maybe I need to edit the essays separately. Not treat it as a whole manuscript, but as installments that need to be finished enough to stand on their own. That's what I imagine the memoir to be anyway: a collection of essays. So maybe here is where I pause, go back, read, edit, add depth, remove frivolous tangents that were explored for the sake of word counts, then find my next theme and start the second essay. Chapter 2. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The point is, I'm writing. And I'm writing with purpose again for the first time in a very long time. And it's a purpose that gives all my previous unpurposeful writings purpose... if that makes any sense at all. Meaning all the 750words entries and blog posts over the past ten years are going to serve as research material for the stories I was telling at those times in my life. I've got a box full of angsty poetry and letters to my best friend in high school and a drawer full of journals. I've been writing research material for this book for years. And with every theme explored, I'm dredging up old baggage, facing it, and throwing it away. This thing is all about moving on.