Posts Tagged ‘art’

Scared

Posted: January 31, 2013 in Essays, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

scared-baby-2I’m starting a new career and I’m scared. I have all these friends that have all these connections and all these resumes out in the hands of those they’ve commended me too. And I am thankful beyond belief for this. (But I’m scared.)

In my heart, I’m an artist. Up until the last few years, I didn’t know how to be an artist though. I wrote and I thought, not yet. I created and believed there was some thing I hadn’t become aware of or grasped that I was supposed to. So I couldn’t be an artist. I wasn’t good enough. I was scared. …But I’m not scared anymore. I’m free.

There is craft and there is hard, hard work. There is the time-consuming process of growing and becoming better and better and better. But there is never anything to be afraid of. The art is always worthwhile. Even when it’s not salable, it’s worthwhile. It is a marker of where one is. It is progress incarnate. It is, my friends, anti-fear. Because fear does not create. Fear hides and makes up excuses. It is indeed the sun-sparkling spittle in the face of fear.

But, yeah, I’m still afraid. This ain’t art. What if I don’t get this job? Any job. What if all this work I’ve done for the past five years ends up being a very expensive education in failure?

For me, the act of creating–the lessons learned from it–prepared me for this. It taught me that even hard-earned failure is hope. Because it taught me that well-prepared actions are beautiful and non-action is null. It taught me that, instead of fearing, I should be. And in being, I will act as I will, not as fear of the unknown forces me to. I will be true to reality and and not the ghost of possible futures.

So, after writing this, I have to admit, I’m still a little afraid. Because truth is beautiful and a fine salve, but–like any medicine–it takes a while to fully work. But I feel better. Because even if destruction wins for a time, I stared it down and created in its ugly face.

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There are very few things that excite me as art does. Scruffy hipsters in black fedoras, orange-haired chicks with black lipstick, trust fund kids with great abs and perfectly coiffed older women in high heels calling themselves patrons—they all huddle around the same painting and find something there. I don’t care what it is. I don’t mind if they’re wrong. The mere fact that it exists is enough. That it is done with love and that love vibrates like a struck tuning fork, turning anyone within earshot its way—that is enough.

The world is a nasty place. It’s full of heartbreak and hate. It’s a disappointment. There are very few things that simply and utterly renounce the idea that there is no love or peace or joy, but art is one of those things. Even more, art is not ex nihilo, it actually often grows out of the putrid soil of the pain in which we are surrounded and too frequently enveloped. It has a redemptive nature. It spits in the face of pain and death and creates hope or wonder or even (dare we?) questions. Art, when done well, is more than entertainment. It can be something as lofty as worship. It can tell us truths we would not otherwise hear. Art, in its many forms, is important because it is an extension of us. It is wholly human in the raw. It dares us to look at the face of a man when we so often only look through him. Perhaps, in that way, it makes us more human.

I’ve been thinking a lot about consequences lately. We do things and we don’t think about the them. Sure, we might think about how it’s going to affect us. But we don’t think globally about our choices. I’ve been in friendships, family and romantic relationships that were damaged or even completely severed not because of what I or the other person did, but because of what had been done to one or both of us in the past. People write themselves into our stories without even realizing it many times. So, I began to wonder about the consequences of what I write.

When I create characters I try to make everything they do mean something. If what someone is doing or saying has no impact on either them or another character, then what they are doing or saying is worthless to the story. That makes me also wonder if what my characters are doing or saying has had any impact on the reader—not just their entertainment, but their lives.

I mean, honestly, everything you write doesn’t have to be mind-blowingly deep or meaningful. Writing for entertainment is fine. But even when you’re writing purely for entertainment, there’s usually a message. There’s usually something Meta going on that even you might not realize. Yes, when I’m writing, I want to be cognizant of what the writing is saying beyond what the writing is saying (if that makes sense). But I also love that thrill of someone coming to me after reading something I’ve written and telling me about something it said to them that I had no idea it said at all.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that art is not something to treat flippantly. It always has consequences. It has meaning and purpose. The ability to move those who view it in one way or another. Sometimes that purpose is to move the reader to anger or change. Sometimes it’s to do the hard job of entertaining. Sometimes it’s to impart joy. But remember that words are powerful and strong (and that’s not just good writing advice). They often come at a cost. Treat them with the respect they deserve and you will most often create something worth experiencing.