Friday, April 5, 2013

Not-So-Creative Ramblings

Creativity—artistry—is a common thread woven through my life.  I have always loved color and design, words, melodies…beauty in every form.    This has been my joy as well as my cross.  Because I fear I have lived the misspent life of the artist with no real talent.  Though beauty gives me great joy, it is joy tinged with sadness, because I cannot create it.  I so want to express myself beautifully.  But my efforts consistently fall short of my ideals. 

In high school, once I got all the technical requirements out of the way —math and science and driver education— I spent my Senior year immersed in artistic endeavors.  I was enrolled in three art classes and four different English classes.  Even at that young age, convinced that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, I acted upon my innate love of the liberal arts.  But I “knew” there was no money in an art or English degree, so I could not rationalize the concept of going to college.  The point that had been most drummed into my young brain about college was not that it was the social experience of a lifetime, or an undreamed of educational opportunity, or that it might lead to life choices of which I could not conceive as a seventeen-year-old suburban Baby Boomer.  No…the gospel according to our family was that college was expensive.  That it would be a hardship on the family purse.  And if we chose that route, we could never  rest assured that the money would continue to flow from orientation through to graduation.

We grew up imprinted with a sort of “cost/benefit” view of everything.  If something—like an education or travel or a hobby—was going to “cost,” it had better result in an equal or greater “benefit.”  And that benefit would have to be something tangible or material—like money, or an opportunity to get money.  Having fun, exposing oneself to mind-expanding experience or pursuing a fulfilling though not necessarily lucrative endeavor did not enter into the equation.  One did not spend thousands of dollars—and one especially did not go into debt—for the intangible rewards of “fulfillment,” or knowledge for its own sake.

So I chose work.  Being employed.  At the first thing that popped up on my radar.  Got that job at the local pizza parlor and stuck to that line of work for thirty years.  Got good at it, even.   But, I think I was fooling myself for all those years.  I certainly discovered, when I finally made the choice to sink all my life energy into that work, that it was not the channel through which I was destined to achieve success, much less fulfillment.  And now that I have finally walked away from that (and, to some extent, recovered from the experience) I understand that the jobs at which I have been employed were simply ways to mark time, make a living, and keep me away from the place where I could despair about my lack of talent for the things I really wanted to do.

My nearly forty years in the workplace have been marked by “between jobs” intervals.  And my history has been such that, in those times of enforced idleness, I have thrown myself headlong into a frenzy of creative projects.  In 1986, whiling away the weeks between an icky job and my dream job, I set up a table in my living room and immersed myself in hand-making sequined and beaded Christmas ornaments.  In the 90’s, my employment ups and downs resulted in a gardening frenzy that enhanced the curb-appeal of three different homes.  In 2001, I poured myself into home redecorating on a shoestring budget.  Also in the 2000’s, advances in digital photography nurtured my love of photography. 

And in 2003, I believed I had found the love of my life:

“Coming to Terms…”

Though I have always loved writing, and fancied myself somewhat good at it, I had never had the opportunity to revel in it.  To use it as more than a self-analytical tool.   Then the world of blogging fell into my lap, quite out of the blue, and I was smitten.  I have had unimagined success and developed more passion and clarity in my writing between  September 2003 and today than in all the previous four decades combined.  Blogging provided me with the only thing that really matters to an artist; the grow-light under which we develop and mature: an audience.  And I blossomed accordingly.

But if I have learned one thing in my life—and it has been a hard lesson for me in particular—it’s that nothing stays the same.  Life is a journey.  You never stop for long.  And even if you try to stay in a place, the place will change.  Most times, this is a wonderful thing; sometimes it sucks.  But it is what it is.

Blogging has changed.  It is not the same place, the same experience it was ten years ago.  Not remarkable, really, considering the rate at which 21st century technology explodes and decays.  But it has left me in a creative vacuum when I am more in need of an artistic outlet than at any other time in my life.  In the past, I’ve negotiated smooth-ish transitions from one creative endeavor to the next.  But I’m finding it very hard to put my blog in the past.   

I don’t want “Coming to Terms…” to be a keepsake that I keep in a box on my dressing table.  I don’t want to see it fade from a passionate, living thing to an album of discolored photographs and yellowing pages of writing that used to matter.   I’ve tried to revive and re-imagine it, but I can’t get it right.

I can’t seem to come up with  a definition for it—however temporary or evolving—that fits the genre of blogging as it is now defined, that fits comfortably into my life today, that allows it to mean something different than it did in the days when I first fell in love with it and still inspire the passion and the joy to which I became addicted.  I visit “Coming to Terms…” at least once a day.  I click on the icon, look at the entries, poise my fingers above the keys…and nothing happens.  “What should I write about?”  “How do I begin?”  “Do I really want to share what I’m feeling/thinking about today?”  “Who is going to read this, and will they understand or care?”   The questions rise from my soul like a mist.  The answers…don’t come.

I made myself sit down and write this today.  It’s pointless and vague and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  But I had to try to put it into words…distill it into some kind of recognizable language.  Try to understand why I…just can’t write, these days.  I hate it.  It makes me sad and frustrated; makes me want to take the whole damn thing and send it sailing out the window with a satisfying crash.   

So I’ve unearthed a few new creative hobbies.  I have been trying my hand at jewelry-making.  Doing some ceramic tile projects; playing with my pictures in Photoshop.  But my efforts in those directions feel half-assed and disposable.  Because I can’t turn completely away from the thing I’ve loved for the past ten years.  I can’t.  I’ve lost too many things these past several months.  I can’t lose this…this thing that saved me from the losses I had racked up before I stumbled into it.   

I don’t know who I am, right now.  I don’t know what I’m doing.  I don’t know what I love, or what I hate.  I have this sense of the finiteness of the time left to me, and that I’m not honoring it at all with any worthwhile endeavor. 

And not being able to write about it has robbed me of the one thing that has kept me sane for the past ten years. 


  1. You've made perfect sense and you said it very well. I can sympathize. I wish could draw what I see behind my eyes. I can't darn it and even words don't work because words don't exist. The names of colors don't exist.

    You've been reading Animal Speak. Feel free to share. I've also got Nature Speak and I can tell you right now, Andrews had the knowledge but he couldn't write worth a darn. IMO.

    I'm just finishing a rereading of McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy. And gotten a shock. There is a hell of lot going on in these books than I realized before. She describes a form of the shaman's journey to a T. You have shapeshifting rulers and the animals are all the most powerful in the pantheon. I've read reviews that dismissed the books as "New Age." They're a scary New Age I never ran into before. Too bad it too me so long to realize it.

    Don't give up on your writing. We may not always comment but there's more to life than tweeting and writing on "walls." :-)

  2. Give the dry spell time. I suspect that when you find your voice again it'll come pouring out like you won't believe.

    And guess who's getting her outlook on life changed. Just as soon as the hormones back off a little. At least Midge isn't a Siamese, she'd have learned to enjoy a good stiff drink if she were.

  3. Goodness, I so hear you. I can't write either. Dry as a bone. I do hope this dry spell moves on and I feel more inspired. Still, you do have your the bird photos.

  4. Lisa - Those of us who were early to blogging experienced something entirely different than what exists today. It's gone from an outlet where you gather a caring audience to a a commercial venture. I don't know why you or I can't pull in more than a scant handful of readers, but it is discouraging...I hear you!!

    The growth you describe in your writing over the last 10 years is what happened with me and my photography. I don't know that I'd be where I am today without the j-land years. You have an amazing talent with words and your essays are well thought out and have impact. I think you and I have hit a similar wall. We lost the audience we valued, but that doesn't diminish what we have to offer as creatives. For me, it means I've got to take the very scary step of trying to find a way to expand the audience. It's terrifying. There are a billion photographers and writers out there who are competing for the eyes of the world. Many have much less talent than you and I.

    I want YOU to know that I have a shit ton of blogs on my google reader, but YOU are someone I read consistently. YOU hold my interest. I appreciate what you have to say and how you express yourself. I don't always comment, sometimes I'm at a loss. I think you're a brilliant writer and I hope you never stop. Your journey has a personal depth that resonates. I love that you are so often looking both outward and inward.

    We should talk!