On Art

Ok. I’m going to try and get a few thoughts out here. It’s been several forevers since I’ve updated this blog with anything substantial, and that alone makes me sneer at myself and my small position in the world and I think, well, no one has yet bemoaned your lack of contribution to daily blog reading, so why start adding to it again now? And that just makes me put it off a day more, and a week, and another six months, because, really what’s the point of it all?

And for some reason, that thought invades and infiltrates every other part of my brain and life and I’ve stopped creating art. It’s embarrassing for me to call myself an artist.

Several reasons: I’ve never once been paid for something artistic I’ve created and somehow it’s been worked out in the warped places of my mind that payment for art is the only thing legitimizing the activity. If it’s validated, I can rest my conscience that I’m not throwing my life away pursing it and I’m less embarrassed to admit that I create for a living (or at least I hope to live by the creations I create) because someone else would have been willing to exchange something cold and hard for something I’ve made.

I cringe at the mere thought of this conversation:

Innocent Inquirer: “So, what do you do?”

Me: “I’m a writer/artist of sorts.”

Innocent Inquirer: “Oh yeah? That’s cool. Anything I’d be familiar with?”

Me: “Well, have you been to that one leaking toilet on the third floor of the Cathedral of Learning?”

Innocent Inquirer: “Uh…I don’t think so…”

Me: “Yeah, I figured. People tend to avoid it. I had some graffiti there once, sort of a conversation with another anonymous writer, but it’s been painted over by now. ‘Bout the only thing I’ve had public…”

Innocent Inquirer: “Oh…”

Me: “Yeah. Someday, maybe.”

Awkward Silence.

Another reason: I find it hard to legitimize the things I make or do with the title ART because it almost seems pretentious or self-gratifying…like, ok, what it is, is that I need someone else who is an ARTIST to validate what I’m doing by telling me it’s good enough to call it ART, or it at least has the potential of growing into ART even if it’s inchoate at the moment.

If I was someone else listening to me whine about what’s art or what isn’t especially if it’s begotten of my hands and imagination, I’d throw my hands up and yell at me to quit bitching and moaning and get back to making the fucking ART. But I’m not outside listening to me dithering and wringing my hands, so it’s just not that easy. And I really don’t know why. It should be.

Another reason: I sat on the couch all night tonight feeling a pull, an ache, to be about my art. And my brain wouldn’t get in sync with whatever part of me was crying out to create. My brain was busy wandering through a wasteland of But What Should I Do? How Will I Know Whether It’s Any Good? What If No One Likes It? What If No One Ever Sees It To Even Try And Like It?

I’m dehydrated just from typing that out. That’s how my brain feels all the time. Alternately foggy and arid and cracked.

There’s this reigning unfocusedness that I can’t seem to conquer. Often, I have to sit and just blankly stare off into an abyss of cottony nothing for solid 15 and 20 minutes at a stretch until I can relocate whatever frayed thread of thought I had been on before. What is that?

Another reason: I have nothing REAL, tangible, solid, or substantial to show for all my claiming to be an artist. What if someone asks to see my work? From the dregs of a few art classes, the best of which are ticky-tacked to my attic walls? Several unfinished short stories of questionable quality, and TWO (seriously, I’ve managed to only reach two endings, ever) “finished” short stories also of questionable quality? That’s like letting the shop teacher rifle through your underwear drawer.

That’s the whining, insecure, unaccomplished side of things.

On the other hand, I’m currently more inspired creatively than I’ve been in a long time. Probably years. The inspiration seems to be equal parts internal and external.

Internally, everything I look at or handle or interact with lately reveals to me its clandestine crafty/artistic/alternative lifestyle. And I’m seeing the potential to repurpose/rebeautify/rejuvinate/transform/etc, etc, etc…everything: paper bags, business cards I’ve collected (it’s a strange habit that I can’t kick), Christmas cards, old high school show t-shirts from marching band and musicals, blue jeans, unfashionable sweaters knitted of beautiful yarn, Casey’s weird programming swag t-shirts, a pile of my grandma’s ancient handkerchiefs, my broke-ass kitchen floor, So many common work-a-day things, even surfacely ugly things have intrinsic beauty if you hold them up to the light just right.

Ideas are not my problem, a plan for the motley bibs and bobs I’ve collected also not a problem—I can see all their afterlifes, hazy, and floating just out of reach, like so many raptured souls rising on to the Eternal Promised Land.

Writing ideas are also not a problem. I have notebooks full of scribbles and paragraphs and doodles and snippets and kernels and nuggets just languishing on shelves and in plastic bins marked “Chastity’s Writing Stuff.” My laptop (and those before it) also a purgatory of my imaginings.

People around me, acquaintances, famous people I admire and follow regularly, so many of my close and peripheral contacts are Accomplishing Life. They are realizing long-held dreams and goals, or working toward new ones, they have transitioned successfully into new phases of life, they are doing their art or running their business or enjoying their domesticity, but they are all doing it well, gracefully, making their mark, leaving something behind, making people happy, inspiring others. That’s all I want to do too. And in the midst of all this accomplishment, I think, Well, why not? Why not me? Why can’t I write novels and live by it? Why can’t I sell my art and make a little extra? Why can’t my stories, pictures, lyrics, poetry, crafts inspire others to make something, to see beauty, to live harder and better and happier?

And you know, I don’t have an answer why not.

This is all inspiring to me, makes me want to start right now and finish every idea I’ve ever had in one night. And that’s the problem—the lack of focus. I’m never single-minded in these things and I don’t know how to train myself to be that way. I get so hung up wanting to do it all that I never do it at all. It’s very frustrating and I fear I’ll live my whole life in rapt anticipation of The Day I Do Something.

And so, I write a blog post. To what? Connect with someone else who Understands? Purge my thoughts of all the negative and hope to wake up fresh tomorrow and less pessimistic? Fish for encouragement? I don’t really know why but it made me write something beginning to end, and that’s a decent place to start.

9 thoughts on “On Art

      1. No, it’s not. Everyone just needs to relax. I’m not offended by the comment. If I was, you’d have already known about it.


  1. I’d like to apply for the position of butt-slapping life coach. References available upon request. I am well versed in telling people what to do and have extensive slap-oriented positive encouragement experience.


  2. Aha! That’s it! I need a life coach. I really just need someone to tell me how to do life, and then to butt-slap me when I’ve done it.

    But, seriously, that’s a good idea–one kind of art each day. I think I can do one thing each day, and if I know ahead of time what I’ll be working on that day, I’ll be excited for it instead of dreading it as I do now (the day, not the activity).

    Thank you.


  3. There there, petite artiste. I understand the haze. What works for me is dividing up my ideas into categories, as you have done, and pick what to do first from each category. Then I just work one day a week on it, even if it’s for 20 minutes. One day I spin, another I crochet (badly), or blog, whatever. It works.
    I think this is a problem that a lot of creative people have. I just read about someone taking a whole weekend retreat with their web designer, life coach, and small business adviser to help figure things out for the year. A bit gratuitous to me, but the idea is the same.


  4. Art is all around, but we don’t often see the role it plays. Your kids’ childrens books have better drawings than I can create. Managing kids and homework, however graceful. The layout of a city, creating sketches. We’re artists everyday, and yet our achievements are passed by… it is a balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, however, I have received interesting extrinsic motivation. Give a concert with hundreds of people, and walking out in my tux will only receive one “thank-you, it was lovely”. Why share with a musician? It was a personal experience, how do I share the journey of the performance with someone who will not know my experiences? You may have experiences such as your “shop teacher,” but I doubt they will forget the experience anytime soon! Make it memorable for them, granny panties or Vicky’s, it’s up to you!


    1. Hahaha! Granny panties or Vicky’s cracked me up! And thank you, yes I think we are artists everyday in how we live, how we treat the day and the people we’re with…yes all those things. Thank you.


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