I have a friend that I value. She isn't my closest friend. She isn't my oldest friend. She might be my realest friend. Among the reasons I value her is that she makes me see the value in myself. When someone you love, admire, and respect tells you that you keep it real, that you are worth having as a friend, that they value their time with you, you believe them. If I were making a case for "widening out" and developing friendships with people of all ages, colors, and life experiences, she would be my key piece of evidence. She isn't someone I would normally develop a friendship with because she isn't my age and seemed out of my league somehow. Thank God I did! And I don't mean that in vain. With all sincerity, I thank God for her friendship. I could tell you more about her, but it wouldn't be in keeping with who she is. She is who she is. If you know her, you know her. If you don't, you don't.
Whenever I am in the St. Louis area, I try to carve out quality time with her. And this most recent trip home was no exception. Here and now, a week later, I am having this realization about our conversation. She was talking about her immensely talented artistic husband and how the things that some people see as extras or luxuries (art, music, literature, and other creative outlets) are truly necessities for other people. And I agreed with her statement and related it to myself and my writing and my need for things like music and art in my life. She didn't disagree. But immediately, I felt stupid. Her husband makes a living off his creative abilities. I keep a private blog. A blog that I sometimes get bored reading.
The realization is that it was a true statement. I am not happy unless I am creating. Something. Sometimes anything. Blogging, creating collages, coloring, cooking, creating stories in my mind. I might not be good at any of it. I am reminded of an early mentor, Bob, asking me if I had ever tried to develop a certain artistic skill (painting? sketching? I am not sure now), because I was complaining about my lack of this specific skill. His point was natural ability or creative juices are not always enough. Sometimes you need education, hard work, and practice. Perhaps the more accurate statement is I am not happy unless I have readily accessible creative outlets. All through school this was easy. There were art classes, music classes, journalism, drama, and most classes required writing. Writing has always been my favored medium. When I left school, it got more complicated. Creating for no reason (especially with no monetary reward at stake) is frequently viewed as wasteful. A waste of time. Of energy. The feeling of necessity is hard to justify to onlookers who don't have it. And my lack of ability doesn't change this feeling of necessity. I can't discount my creativity anymore. (It hurts me to not add a self-deprecating joke right here. But I will not!! No backhanding!!!)
The other part of this is how I need the arts or other peoples' creative expressions in my life. Most specifically, music. You don't have to read very many posts on this blog to see that music is important to me. That it is a vital part of my every day life. Sometimes I set out to write my love letter to music only to find that words don't suffice. Can I logically put into words why I for a certainty had to stay home "sick" from school because I needed a day to just be at home and listen to the Otis Redding's The Dock Of The Bay album? (Sorry mom & dad!) No. I have searched for the perfect words for what songs like As, Feeling Good, Hallelujah, Slow Dance, Never Is A Promise, and I Know (just to name a few) mean to me. I can not find the words. Or at least I haven't yet. I will keep looking. In the end, I must have music. There is nothing more or less to it.
So here's the thing. The realization. The "root of the root and the bud of the bud." I can no longer hide or run from my creative urges and needs. Lack of skill is not an acceptable justification. And since practice makes perfect, you, my imaginary readers will be my guinea pigs. (Ah! Release! I feel so much better. The pressure of not skewering myself through out this post was killing me). And if you relate to any of this, tell me about it. Write it, paint it, sculpt it, play it, sing it. Just do it.
Required Reading: (Or things I read that I found fascinating and relatable).
George Orwell: Why I Write. I was absolutely floored by how much of what he said about himself as a child was(is) true of me as well. Most especially this line, "I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a continuous ‘story’ about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind."
Joan Didion: Why I Write. This link is just an excerpt. The whole thing is well worth reading. Here is what struck a chord with me:
"All I knew was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.Which was a writer.
By which I mean not a "good" writer or a "bad" writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper."
And finally, an article on creative personalities from Psychology Today.