Sunday, July 15, 2012

Art Was My Magic Talisman

Lady Writing a Letter With Her Maid - Vermeer
Those who know me personally are also quite aware of the extent to which self discovery has been a major theme in my life over the past several years. Art and creativity are two things that have always been such a huge part of who I am that they have -- of course -- been key elements of the whole process. This comes as no surprise to me when I think back on my history as an artist and reflect on what creativity has meant to me over the years.

When I was younger, I was extremely shy. I also felt like I was very different from other people my age. Although I wanted to be liked and accepted as much as anyone else, I found the process of forming connections with others to be really difficult. Other kids didn't seem to enjoy the same pastimes I did or have the same values. However, my ability to create -- especially my ability to draw and paint -- has always been something that served as an instant "in" with other people no matter how big the gulf. It didn't matter how weird and odd others thought I was before. Once they saw my art, they were suddenly intrigued by me and at least marginally interested in getting to know me better as a person. As a result, I began habitually using art as a way to connect to other people on a social level.

This process would really kick itself into high gear when I discovered the internet. All of a sudden, I was no longer limited solely to the people and connections I could find in my own little town, so it was much easier to locate people who shared more of my values and interests. I also found myself immersed in an environment where I could communicate solely through writing instead of talking. Suddenly I didn't need to push myself to approach others anymore. It turned out that socializing came as naturally to me as it had always seemed to for anyone else. I just needed the right environment to present itself first. I made a lot of friends and even achieved a certain level of popularity... all because I was putting myself out there and letting my creativity connect me to people. The internet even introduced me to Seth eventually and he is without a doubt one of the better things to have ever happened to me.

I only ran into a snag when I tried to put my professional life in order through my creativity the same way I had done with my personal life. Jobs, careers, and money-making have always been difficult for me to master. Personally speaking, I've always been someone who would just rather be a homemaker and not have an outside job at all. However, life has never really graced me with the opportunity to do that for very long at a time. I dislike having to spend a lot of time away from home and I loathe having to work face-to-face with the public. I've always been happier and better adjusted when I can call my own shots or work by myself.

I thought art and writing might be a solution to that -- and to some extent they have been. I can offer services that allow me to earn a living through my computer without having to leave the house or interact in person with my client base, which is a huge load off as far as stress. However, since I'm not yet at a place in my career where I'm making my money expressing myself or bringing my own ideas to life, there's still a lot about the whole career dilemma that creativity can't fix for me yet. I'm still serving people for a living. I'm still a working grunt who spends her days hooked up to someone else's plow, ultimately making other people successful instead of myself. The scenery is just a little nicer is all.

The frustration that resulted from this has been at the roots of why I've just kind of stopped with my personal work for a while. It's like I was angry at my art for failing me or something. It was supposed to magically fix my issues with earning a living the way it fixed my lack of fulfilling personal connections... but it didn't. I'd never once actually been let down by my creativity before, so it's ceased to be sort of a magic talisman that I feel like I can count on to keep my life on track. It's taken me a while to figure out what to do with it next.


Lately, I've been slowly finding my way back to my artistic side. However, I've noticed I now have a different problem than I had before. Before, I sincerely and utterly did not feel moved to create. Now I actually appear to have found my way back to a place where I turn to art or creative writing to fill a weekday's evening or a Sunday afternoon with pleasure again. I don't really feel as readily moved to share anymore though. I'm also realizing that this growing lack of desire to let others take my creative journey with me going forward has been a huge factor as far as why I'm not that interested in NaNoWriMo anymore... or creative communities like DeviantART.

It's honestly like I hit the reset button on the whole process and wound up back at the beginning again. I'm back to being a teenager who jealously guards what she creates and doesn't feel moved to show it to a soul. I haven't even really shown any of it to Seth, although I do at least discuss ideas and such with him more readily than I do other people. I'm definitely worried about letting the whole process get poisoned again by the personal pressure from within to make money and acquire publishing credits. I even thought quite seriously about just going to make sandwiches for a living somewhere and quitting even my copywriting business awhile back in the hopes I'd be able to feel the way I once did about these pastimes. That's how much I wanted this part of my life back. I hate waiting on others for a living, as I find it demeaning... but I still found it preferable at one point to continuing to sell my creative gifts down the river the way I've been doing.

I now realize that I still very much want to "be" a writer and an artist -- my own way when the time is right -- but for now, I'm enjoying letting my personal creative work just be something for me and no one else. I do feel like there's a danger of my slipping back into total recluse mode though. I liked living in my own little world when I was a child. I was fine that way and didn't particularly feel any need to change things. However, the adult I am now does realize that to go back to that 100% is to stop growing and evolving. That said, I'm trying to hold onto the way it did feel to let my art connect me to other people just for the sake of connecting. I'm slowly but surely forgetting... and the more I forget, the less I miss it. Probably a dreadful shame, but there it is just the same.