Some artistic people in my life are reading a book right now called The Creative Call. It’s great. There’s a lot of wisdom for people who feel like they never “found their artistic voice” or perhaps never identified as “creative.” If you lack a medium through which you can express the inexpressible, this book is for you. *Just as a side note, this book is a Christian perspective of creativity in life, but there are plenty of secular examples to choose from such as The War of Art and The Creative Habit that beckon readers to reengage their creative side without also talking faith and the Christian life.
The following paragraphs are some responses to a section of a chapter of The Creative Call … it’s nothing special, but I thought it might be an interesting way for others to get a glimpse into my personal relationship with art through the years. Also, I hope anyone that stumbles on this post might think about their own artistic story and find some of their own answers to these questions.
Was there an earlier time in life that you produced art?
I used to make more “creative things” (e.g. bean bags, necklaces, cities in the sand, scarves, castles, drawings) when I was younger. I wasn’t really that cool, but at the time it didn’t matter. Besides, I had the privilege of growing up in a group that didn’t really want to be cool relative to other communities … it was a nice social cocoon. Then I moved into junior high and high school and literally left it behind. No more art classes, no more random projects (that I recall) and seldom did I read for fun as I had in my childhood. I sort of lost that self-confidence that one needs to tinker alone for hours on end with no advice or affirmation.
I was gradually pulled outward as I matured into a more social, active life. As I moved through my room during this post-art era, I often viewed my old paintings and drawings as ruins in Middle Earth … relics of a lost civilization. While I moved on from these visual arts, I realize that I began to move into the “written arts.” This shift has continued from that time except for a few noteworthy ventures into painted worlds at “art parties” my senior year of high school and during a class on “Observational Painting” my junior year of college. Otherwise, I suppose, writing has become my voice. Here’s a relic from early high school: an example of this shift as I struggled through my early adolescence:
“Enter la chimera cha; take my sorrows, learn to draw.
A sword to take the life of one seeking solace from the sun.
From afar it seems so sweet, upon arrival Charon greets. Means to end
surreal strife, death alone—that radiant life.”
“I would practice art if only …”
I would practice my art more often if I weren’t always around people: drawn to connect and afraid to retreat. I recently read a quote from Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” in which he writes,
“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
When I read this quote I realized that in the past decade of my life I’ve been stretched far too thin and removed my support system of art and creativity. I definitely need to stay connected to my community, but as I become more healthy I think I’ll learn to withdraw more often. I often find myself blogging late at night (currently 1 a.m.) because I’ve already committed the rest of my day.
“I’ll start making time for art when …”
I’ll start making time for art when I’m not doing this yearlong internship, when I have more direction for my first book, when I know that I will be able to support myself monetarily (any wealthy patrons out there?), or when I start a graduate program that requires me to daily engage my creative mind.
“I’d be doing my art right now if it weren’t for …”
I don’t really know what my art is. If it’s writing, then I think I am doing my art right now, but sometimes writing feels more like a conviction. I realized the other day that I feel compelled to write … it’s much less a hobby than it is a part of who I am. I also wonder if creativity can get lost in obnoxious intellectual thoughts.
As I continue to write, I want to push myself to more actively integrate my design and personal narrative to perhaps make the process more “creative.” Perhaps the end product would be “my art.”
“I’d always hoped that I’d …”
To be honest, I had always hoped that I would go completely off the deep end, produce something incredible, then die an early death. This thought first entered my mind as I read Housman’s “To An Athlete Dying Young” and lingered in the recesses for years to come. I wasn’t really morbid about the thought of dying young, but I distinctly remember thinking that my talent would be more influential as tragic unrealized potential. I’d always hoped that I would be tragic, but at the same time I almost always followed the rules.
“I wish I had the courage to …”
I wish I had the courage to tell my own story in a compelling and innovative way. And to let go of the hometown ties that hold me back and keep me from being exposed as a human with flaws and fears. I also wish I had the courage to get past my fear of public humiliation (and latent political ambition) to just be myself. I’m thankful that I have let go of most of the hang-ups from my earlier years, but there will always be something new.
“If I could go back in time I would …”
… produce more at an early age, stop feeling alone on the margins and embrace my strengths as gifts to be used. Also, I would learn how to play the piano and cook great food. I might even learn to dance.
My hope deferred is the thought of me as a classy, unique, professional person, confident, yet realistic and sincere. Right now, I’m afraid I hide behind my words too much. While I’m glad to have further honed this skill, I hope to eventually use writing in a less esoteric way that people can still appreciate and enjoy.
Favorite words (and phrases):
Portmanteau, sin qua non, mutatis mutandis, latent, urbane, nascent, apex, zenith, delight, hallowed, space, amaze, past, significance, embrace, huzzah, fearsome, boulevard, difference, terrifying, nostalgia, anticipate, potential, place, remain, resent, longing, resist, gruesome, lament, sunrise, society, dissonance.
Special thanks to @brainpicker‘s New Year’s Resolution Reading List: 9 Books on Reading and Writing for a great survey.