*This post was originally written on July 8, 2017 on a different blogging platform. I’ve since made the decision to move to WordPress and am bringing those early posts here for continuity.
It’s easiest for me to identify as a visual artist as I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a child. Allowing myself to acknowledge I am also a writer has been more difficult and recent, as I have some odd ideas about how I can’t be both an artist and a writer. I am not sure where those ideas came from, and I am actively working on dismantling them. I am an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction and have always admired those who can draw me into a well-crafted story or essay. I’ve been told I am a strong storyteller in person, which I think is true. The challenge comes in the form of putting those stories on paper because when you are speaking out loud, you can’t revise—words come out of your mouth with a different kind of flow and you can’t take them back. All you can do is speak, observe your audience, and work with what you have in that moment. When the moment is finished, it is done and cannot be changed. It may be further explained or apologized for at other times, but those are addenda rather than edits. There’s some liberation in that for me. I find I get lost in editing when I am writing because I am searching for precision. That’s a worthy goal, but it also tends to remove the freshness from my writing, particularly because I tend to edit as I write. There’s a balance somewhere between polished and fresh that I want to strike. I want to figure out how to strike it.
I’ve had this idea for a novel in my head since I was ~14. It’s receded and surfaced a number of times in the form of sketches and written snippets, RPG characters, and literal dreams that are rich in detail and plot. I’ve had a lot of hesitation about trying to actually write it, but something about having finally finished my thesis has made working on this story feel much more possible. My thesis wrapped up at ~40,000 words, which isn’t that much shorter than the 50,000 word goal NaNoWriMo outlines for its participants. I have thought rather wistfully of attempting NaNoWriMo each November for the last few years, and putting that wistfulness together with this emerging feeling that I have time now to focus on something other than research means I have a chance to get this story out of my head and into the open. I feel like writing fiction may be easier for me than academic research, but I honestly have no idea.
I have some hesitation about bringing this story out in a public way. I have tendencies toward perfectionism, especially when it comes to research and writing, and those tendencies make it difficult to do anything ‘in public’ when I am new to it. What if it goes wrong? What if people hate it? What if I hate it? And I guess the perennial risk of putting anything on the internet—what if it gets stolen? Ultimately I’ve realized that the answer to each of those questions really depends on what my motivation is: am I here for approval? Am I here to experiment? Am I trying to gain a skill? Am I trying to make money? Approval is nice, absolutely. I am not super hung up on it when I am getting what I want out of the creative process though. I enjoy experimenting, although I am less confident about sharing my work when I am uncertain about what the reception might be. I like to gain skills, and the feeling of accomplishment when I get proficient at something is a strong motivator in my life.
The topic of money, however, is a difficult one for me. I would love to make a living doing creative things—I think most people would if they could. I think that has been the dream I’ve had the hardest time confessing my entire life because we’re often told that creativity won’t pay the bills and we have a responsibility to society to be contributing members. The issue that I have with that is that it assumes “contributing” always takes the form of material capital, and seldom every considers how creatives contribute to the self-awareness and well-being of society. I strongly believe that humans can’t do without creative expression, and that creative expression absolutely should be supported by society in both material and ideological ways. I find the idea of monetizing my artistic practice uncomfortable at this point. While supporting myself through creative practice would be nice, I worry that having to shape it into a product would change the process. I realize that I will have to work this out for myself if I decide that making a living this way is a priority for me. In the meantime, I must acknowledge my privileged position when it comes to making art: I have a partner that can provide for us which allows me more freedom to spend time pursuing creation; I have space of my own that is safe, clean, and well-stocked in which I can create; I usually have money for supplies; and I have a community that supports my practice. I realize that many people do not have access to these things and I am lucky that I do. Sometimes it makes me sad that there are so many people out there who could be creating that aren’t because structural things get in their way. I wonder what their work would be like… Another aspect of my privilege is that, unlike many of the creatives who rely on their practices for their livelihood, I am not in that position at this time, which means I can afford to be more cavalier with my concerns about my work being absconded with by someone else. That isn’t to say that I want my work to end up out of my control, but that I know my material living conditions won’t change dramatically as a result if it happens. This lets me work from a position where the process of creating is as much of the goal as what the finished work would be. Perhaps more.
So this space is going to include my adventures in attempting to write this story out. It will be interesting to see how it evolves as a practice and a narrative. I hope I can be patient with myself!