Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Work, My Nakendness

Songwriters sometimes describe performing their songs on stage as akin to standing in front of a crowd, stark naked. When you've created something it can be like that...like you're revealing yourself, exposing all your vulnerabilities, all your weaknesses, your secret desires, and your pain.

Sometimes this is because it's out of those things that our art is created. There are times when our pain gives birth to inspiration, or our vulnerability makes way for an expression of inner strength. But there is also the secrets, the stuff that is unconscious. The knowledge that someone might interpret our work and expose something we didn't even know about ourselves. Like the painter who creates random abstract paintings, only to discover that viewers see more than was intended.

The fear of revealing oneself is something the creative mind deals with every time they show their work to a friend, a family member, or an audience. In fact, the fear of one can far outweigh the fear of the many. I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable with revealing my music to my family more than to a venue full of people. And the individuals i chose to show my works to were selected not only with great deliberation, but also via their placement in time. Sometimes there would be only a window of a couple of days where i was willing to share, and if the right person wasn't around to listen...

But it's not just the uncomfortableness of oneself. Creative people are often extremely sensitive to the feelings of others. So imagine sharing something with someone, but not wanting to put them on the spot in any way that would make them awkward to offer any kind of feedback. This is something often overlooked. Artists generally want honesty. Of course they don't want to be hurt, but they don't want to hear Uncle John say "hey, i like that" just because he might feel he's expected to say that. They don't want pandering, though they do want encouragement. It can get complicated.

My mother is my biggest critic. I know that she loves that i write music, but she is careful not to show too much enthusiasm. This i sometimes interpret as indifference, which i used to find very challenging. She is honest with her own taste in music, telling me in no uncertain terms when she can't stand to listen to one of my pieces, or when it's "alright, i guess". It's complicated because she is my mother, and i want her to show a mountain of pride, and lashings of support, but i admire her honesty. She will tell me straight out that the CD artwork is completely the wrong colour for the music and that she finds a sound irritating, but i lean on the knowledge that she is trying to be helpful and truthful, and not mollycoddle me, and as such i only show her pieces that are near completion. Because i know that the complicatedness of our relationship will become too great an influence, and i would find myself changing things to suit her and not myself.

Art is from the heart, whether it's an awareness or a subconscious influence. It's endless possibilities make it a difficult birth process at times. Revealing oneself confidently, warts and all, doesn't come with the job. It's because of our vulnerability that we can create, so to reveal ourselves takes practice, patience, and a lot of gritting of teeth. It's a skill that must be learnt, like on-the-job-training. It's the hardest thing, yet is imperative if we are to share our talents. It's bracing for impact, crumpling in an emotional heap, lashing out with bitterness and anger, cowering with angst and uncertainly, putting on armour and challenging any opponent. It's all of this and more.

We are what we are, and we do what we do. We're not really eccentric. Just creative minds, with a need to explore.

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