This post is composed of excerpts from an email I sent to my friend, Tim, last week. Otherwise known formally as “T. Blake,” Tim is the artist who created the visual dimension of Seven Road. We correspond regularly about our work. About our creative struggles and achievements and, more importantly, about the spiritual dimension of our respective artistic journeys.
I get disappointed in my work, too. And, interestingly, that’s a feeling that’s also been plaguing me recently. I am learning that periods of relaxation, or simply doing something other than creating, are necessary for me whether I like it or not. I most often become discouraged with my work when I am forcing myself to do it for the wrong reasons. I have to write a poem so I can publish on the blog this week, etc. And that’s no good. It inevitably leads to shoddy work. The kind of work that isn’t satisfying to me and that never feels spontaneous, carefree, or playful as I’m doing it. These are also periods in which I get an all-consuming thirst for novelty. A desire to write differently. To create something entirely new.
It’s just that way these days. I sit down to write a new poem and end up with pages upon pages of lines I can’t seem to put together in a manner that satisfies me. The lines themselves are alright, I guess. The sentiments. Imagery. Construction. But I can’t seem to rid myself of an inner voice that says, “Ok, now make it different.” I like to think I am close to actually doing something stylistically fresh and new for me. Well, I’d better be because, I can tell you, I have already grown tired of doing it all the same old way. But creative insights happen in their own time. And in cases like these, too much striving is undoubtedly the enemy of authenticity.
But, anyway, in response to your concerns about creating art that makes people feel…
It is a shame that we seem to be surrounded by so much apathy. Apathy to beauty, to art, to nature, to kindness, to the experience of being human, generally. I think that’s why we feel so good when our art strikes an emotional chord, really resonates with an audience, however small. Maybe I’m just getting surly as I get older, but I am increasingly discomforted by the apathetic society in which we live.
I’ve also noticed lately (and this might be an odd thing to say, but maybe you’ve felt this way before), that I have become more concerned with being kind. I sometimes feel that, in art as well as in life, I am searching for goodness. For that one good thing. For a way to revive my own spirit by just being a more decent person instead of allowing myself to fall prey to the narrow and pungent ego-centeredness that defines our culture and of which we’re all, tragically, capable. I want my poetry to be a kind of “good work” too. Not happy or appeasing or pretty, but my distinct contribution to human society, even when it causes others discomfort. On some level, that is where The Used Life came from. Not just from a desire to explore my interests, but to make something of them—something authentic, useful, and (hopefully) beautiful—that I can offer the rest of the world. I think you probably operate from the same place with your art. Somewhere deeper. Articulating those inner visions and all of the emotional experiences that come with them is the most soulful form of self-expression I can think of. Or of which I am capable, surely.
It’s a gift we have, I think, even though most non-creative types don’t understand it. And they don’t. Especially when they think it’s necessary to give us advice. Trying to be supportive in a way that only they understand. I believe it is impossible to explain those inner experiences to them, though. Why we value the world of imagination over stone cold living. May sheds light on this dilemma:
In our day of dedication to facts and hard-headed objectivity, we have disparaged imagination: it gets us away from ‘reality’; it taints our work with ‘subjectivity’; and, worst of all, it is said to be unscientific. No wonder people think of ‘art’ in terms of its cognate, ‘artificial,’ or even consider it a luxury that slyly fools us, ‘artifice’…What if imagination and art are not frosting at all, but the fountainhead of human experience? What if our logic and science derive from art forms and are fundamentally dependent on them rather than being merely a decoration for our work when science and logic have produced it? – Rollo May
That’s what it is: a disparity in values. By virtue of our creativity, our values are different. What we see is different. How we think about everything. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I am completely backwards. Like everything I value most in the world is artifice to everyone else. Not the serious stuff of life. Why we see our imaginations as a source—as THE source—of what’s meaningful, good, and true. And why it’s more important than all the other crap we could be busying ourselves with. Our visions, the overwhelming urgency that accompanies the need to create, the ecstasy, the absorption, the way the whole experience overtakes us. And why it’s an end in itself.
I guess, in a way, my creativity makes me feel like I carry a little bit of god around with me. Even when I get anxious and frustrated and feel entirely too sensitive and vulnerable to the whole process. That, in the silence, in the recesses of my imagination, I get a glimpse of that one good thing I’ve been after. And everything else is just noise.