Monday, February 3, 2014

When you're an artist.

the truth about being a writer
I have always been a creative person, even if it's only been in the last couple of years since I could say that out loud without cringing.
Doesn't it sound sort of pretentious? Sort of braggy and self-proclaimed? 
"I am an artist." Ugh. I hate those words coming out of my mouth. They feel embarrassing and shitty, no matter how much I identify with them. And what's worse is that they don't bother me at all when I hear other people say it.
In L.A. last week I was sitting at a bar by the pool when an older man next to me struck up conversation.
What do you do? He asked.
I'm a photographer. I said. What do you do?
I'm an artist, he replied.

And for a second I felt my insides sigh and go ugh, I'm so jealous. I wish I could be an artist.
This was momentary, and quickly I realized how stupid my insides were being.
I am one, I know this, but I don't like to talk about it.

When you're truly creative I think - and I mean madly passionately crazily artistic - you don't want to sit in coffee shops and chat about your creative process.
You don't want to talk about your artistic soul, and your creative vision - except for exactly 3 seconds after your vision comes to you but then it's only in fragment sentences that make very little sense to anyone and sound something like "India ink....maybe green.....felt.....deer antlers....where do they sell bunting....." before you wander off to lose yourself in the process.

I think when you're really an artist you don't want to talk to everyone you know about it, brag about it, scream it from the rooftops, for a few reasons:
1. Saying you're an artist makes most people think "unemloyed"
2. What you're saying makes little to no sense outside of your own head. How do you describe the madness and glory that is creating something you halfway love and halfway hate but completely can't live without, to someone that sells stocks for a living?
3. It's embarrassing.

Creativity is in large part a mutation of an otherwise normal brain.
This could stem from childhood dysfunction, random genius, or the fact that you're Bob Ross.
In any case, it isn't something that happens to you without side effect.
Being creative also often times means being irresponsible.
It can mean entire nights spent in front of your computer, drinking coffee and working like crazy rather than sleeping, because you have ALL THE IDEAS RIGHT NOW. That's great and all, but hey, the kids have to be at school at seven-freaking-forty in the morning. You should probably be sleeping.
It means that the dishes aren't getting done and the laundry is piling up because you had a creative dry spell but now you're deadline so you just need to finish all these goddamn projects you've left sitting here, not wanting to touch because you didn't feel inspired, but now you're inspired by the idea of NOT GETTING EVICTED.
It means that you've been wearing the same Guns N Roses t-shirt for two days, and haven't eaten anything but Triscuits. 
It means - at least for every artist or creative that I've ever known - that you possess a certain level of darkness. A certain maudlin quality, a specific tendency toward melancholy that allows you to see things louder, brighter, bigger than they are. That allows you to feel things deeper, more intensely than other people do. That allows you to assign a beautiful and relateable meaning to otherwise meaningless things. 

When you're financially supporting yourself and your family on your art, it means distilling everything down to your most basic needs:
I need to create
I need to keep the kids alive, not burn down the house, and spend some good uninterrupted time with real kids/people every day

You don't want to talk about what it takes to be creative, because so often it takes the best parts of you, and what's left is a sink full of dirty dishes and a lot of forgotten appointments. 

But, it's who you are.
It's what you are.
And for better or worse, it's your favorite and most precious thing about yourself.

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