Monday, October 22, 2012

Creative Nurturing: an Open Love Letter to the Plural You

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The last couple of weeks were a body-mandated pause in my creative life as I did the spinal implant trial and then got reacquainted with neuralgia, but during that some metaphor-brain-wheels (steampunk ones; my metaphor brain is steampunk) were turning with me and my friends. Friends who are ridiculously wonderful to such a degree that they inspired this love letter. I believe fervently that creative achievement, distinct from innate creative potential, is dependent on family and peers. There are some artists who work the uphill battle of making art while also fighting societal pressures and parents who think they should pursue accounting degrees or take up the family pizza business or whatever, but my theory is that those are the ones who die in a vomit-and-heroin slurry when they are 27. I think creative minded people are likely to have a cliché touch of madness, but we usually are mostly kind of sorta almost nearly functional. Unless our parents made us crazy, is sort of where I seem to be going. I did not know what I was typing until I looked up and saw that bad parents make you a dead junkie. I'll get back to you with some statistics.

However, I was raised by hippies. Awesome artsy musicky hippies. My dad would later apply his scary-smart brain to computer engineering and IT and a basement jungle of wires and motherboards, but in college he majored in Music Theory with a minor in Looking Like a Kind, Sane, and Gentle Charles Manson. Mom specialized in pursuing a Special Education degree while hanging out in the Davis Fine Art building at WVSU, which was then WVSC. She wrote poetry that stirs the soul and taught me that I wasn't crazy, I was a writer. They were really, really supportive of my visual art and writing. I grew up with friends who bolstered that support and I'm so grateful for that. It's vulnerable and frightening to do creative work.

The art ego is legendary, but it's not because we just like attention and praise. Artists crave support because we are all scared, imaginative little kids who have epic nightmares and make very personal things that are valued subjectively. If your work is valued objectively- in dollars and profit margins or load bearing walls and right angles, your work is a definable, tangible product. Your skill and craftsmanship are measurable and quantifiable. Directly useful, and maybe necessary. The product of art, when there is one, is a thing of emotion and psychology and mystical, soulful mojo. There is no standard method of judgment or appraisal. Beyond that mix of mysterious elements is the tendency that powerful art is more novel, controversial, or radical and that compounds the stress on the artist. It'll never be easy to publish a post or submit a poem or exhibit paintings, but with a supportive push, it's possible.

I've had an embarrassment of riches in creative support. Of course there have been a few requests from grandmas or mothers-in-law to please start painting my primal goddesses wearing clothing and an occasional friend-of-a-friend who'd rather not look at skulls or bloody human hearts. Possibly a phobic husband secretly hoping that I won't revisit my mutilated babydoll period. But I'm able to laugh at that and keep going, because I've got a strong enough foundation. I have friends who feed me when I do a blogging marathon, come get Molly when I need to focus, and come out in pouring rain to see my shows. I have friends who drag me out of an exhausted new mom slump to design magazine covers and give me stern mom glares when I need to revamp my Etsy shop. I have friends right now planning to chip in and buy me tattoo equipment because they want my art on their skin. I just need to yell THANK YOU really loudly today.

I want to group hug the whole internet and kiss your cheeks. I want to get drunk and cry a little bit with you. I want you to know that without you it's all messy with the drugs and the dead and the crazy. And I love you.

Digital "sketch" from a tabled project I'll get around to finishing or not.


  1. <3

    (Genetics makes for dead junkies, btw. Addiction is *highly* genetic. As is creativity. And mental illness. Pretty much everything, actually: nurture really doesn't count for much, long term. Unless you really fuck it up. Sadly. And awesomely, because yay, not-fucking-up-that-badly parenting is super easy!)

    1. Nature versus nurture RUMBLE! Let's go-

      Actually, not:D

      The dead junkie hyperbole is me being a flip drama queen- I agree with you and genetic science. Which is funny, as they are facts and don't care if I agree with them or not. But I argue for nurture in the wiggle room.

      I see the genes and given creative talent as not quite neutral. In a social context I think there's a tendency toward creative insecurity. I guess that means creativity is fragile, and I think it is. I think it has to be cared for by the artist and that an artist with support is stronger and better equipped for the job than the "solitary genius in ivory tower model artist."

      I picked up that bullshit paradigm as an art student and I'm still digging it out of me. I'm very thankful to the Universe and all the ancestral webs that wove my genes into a skilled hand and a spilling brainful of words, but when I don't nurture it and don't have support around me, I fall apart. I need the nudge and the love just like I need the antidepressants to fight the asshole genes of depression. And as you are one of my truest and most inspiring sistermamas, thanks for that. You're a treasure to me:)