Ask someone to tell how they got started as an artist or writer or creative person and they'll tell you about their childhood. Some of the stories are beautiful childhood memories of a great auntie or teacher who saw their talent and helped them along. But most of the stories are memories of being different, feeling like an outsider looking in or failing. Good or bad, these stories aren't really about talent vs inability. They're about acceptance.
I love this quote from Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:
“Becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive. Even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.”
I've spent my life in various stages of duck and cover. There are a lot of reasons for this which I won't go into here, but let's just say one big reason was that if I made myself invisible, I'd be more accepted.
But I was seen anyway. And it always took me by surprise when it happened. There was a little part of me that longed to be seen and a bigger part that wished to be left alone. I liked the quiet and calm and space. I still do. I believe that's what really drew me to writing and art making.
It is a solitary sport where I get to determine the game plan. It's a safe place where I can accept myself, as I am today, where my voice whispers through the clay.
Another quote I love from Ursula Le Guin:
"One of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience. There are always areas of vast silence in any culture, and part of an artist’s job is to go into those areas and come back from the silence with something to say. It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When we read good poetry, we often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.'
Sometimes, I forget how important it is for everyone to speak up. Lately in our country, we've been bombarded by voices. Anger. Pain. Threats. Fear. And especially, one loud voice crazy with denial, lies and madness. I get to a point when I just can't listen to any more. Then I realize the louder the voices, the bigger their need to be heard.
As a writer and artist, I love my solitary, calm, studio work. I love to read and listen to music and stare out the window. But I also want my art and words to be seen and heard and accepted. In order to do that, I know I have to open my eyes, ears and heart not just to creation but to all that is created around me. Creating acceptance to the good, the bad, the ugly that I make and you make and all of us makes.
I figure if I can accept the messes I create. (And I hate messes). I'll be better off and hopefully so will you.