Wednesday, February 10, 2010
To those of you that make things
You may not have achieved success by society's standards. No, you may not be recognized for what you do, or recompensed with financial rewards.
And so, what I say to you, is probably cold comfort. I know it's hard living in this country without the autonomy that money provides.
But, as I was without the ability to sleep, I spent a some time looking at things people make on the Web. Those who are prolific, who just can't help creating, you have my deepest respect. You have something that people would give up much for, if it was something money could buy. And the thing is, money can't buy creativity.
I've taken my own creativity for granted much of my life, and did not cherish it. It was just me, nothing special, my normal, and I always felt I could do better still. Do better? I was gifted, but schooled in comparing myself to impossible standards, and programmed for failure by people who couldn't help themselves, people who felt as if they'd failed in spite of their own personal gifts. My parents both were brimming with artistic and intellectual talents, and I watched at they suffered indignation every day kowtowing to those who were wealthy in order to scrape by. My mother put a beautiful and happy face to the world, and then came home and deflated. My father raged daily to everyone. And I, the child, cowered in fear of a world I was told I'd never be able to succeed in for a myriad of reasons. I hadn't the ability to see beyond what I was taught, and so, I watched those with far less promote themselves relentlessly as I was too afraid of the world to demand my place in it. I thought I had nothing to offer. I was programmed for failure. I felt I had failed before I had even begun.
If these sound like the words of someone who feels pity for oneself, they are not. I have grown far beyond blaming my parents or my upbringing for the adult I've become. But still I struggle. Some overcome more quickly than others Some never overcome at all. For each triumph, each moment of stripping away at that which has held me back, I am grateful.
But, as usual, I have digressed.
Somewhere along the way I lost my ability to simply keep drawing, painting, making music, sewing, whatever. It's not a "block." The joy and the drive recedes and returns. It lost being an imperative, like breathing. Once, not spending every waking free minute engaged in making music or art was an impossibility. It mattered not that I felt as if I was banging my head against a wall, that I wasn't connecting, that I quaking in the proverbial boots at job interviews, that I had no true belief in myself. I had to make stuff, in every available minute. I didn't even have "something to say." Just moving my hand over paper and producing something was enough. I spent hours playing the same two chords on my guitar.
I suppose nowadays I feel similarly about making things out of fiber, but still I hold back a lot. I spend to much time thinking, "Can I make money with this?" instead of just doing it. Then I might spend much time surfing the web, writing this (which, I suppose, is a form of creativity), or watching yet another movie or British television show. I might not watch trash, but I wonder how much of my life I've wasted consuming this entertainment?
So, yes, I want to applaud those of you who still just can't help themselves, who keep on drawing, painting, making music, exploring their particular dreams and quirky interests that perhaps no one else can see the beauty or meaning of. To those of you who do any of this, you are so very rich. If you think no one recognizes you talents, you probably have many secret admirers who are too shy to tell you how awed they are at your talents and your perseverance.
I try to give compliments where they are due. So, even while I have a number of people in mind as I write this, I also am writing to those who I do not know. You all deserve as much encouragement as you can get. You are an inspiration to others.
Again, it may be cold comfort when you'd like to quit your dayjob and make things all day, get paid for what you do and keep struggling so hard, or get a grant, or have someone recognize you instead of having to sell yourself. Ah well. This world is not fair, and you've heard that a million times. I only want to thank you. Thank you.
Photo note: I've seen the "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly" twice in my life, and each time was awed by its beauty, inventiveness of construction, and the compulsion that created it. This is but a peek at it. James Hampton spent fourteen years working on this throne, along with 177 other objects that were found after he died.