Day 14: Imaginary Thoughts

Self Portrait, c. 2003
This post is meant to be a bit less about writing and a bit more about my art. By art I'm referring to the visual work I crafted and studied and hoped at one point to use as my primary form of expression.

I've mentioned before that I started out thinking I was destined to become a visual storyteller. I primarily used drawing as my creative escape and means of dealing with the stresses of my life. I would withdraw from the world, pencil in hand to my studio (my upstairs uncooled bedroom in my teenage years, or the basement of  our townhouse apartment in Westerville before I joined the Marine Corps ) for my release.

Digital Sketch, c. 2011
Drawing always felt like an isolated activity for me. I've also written about the need to pour myself, unmolested and often undisturbed into the crafting of a drawing or piece of artwork when I was doing it for personal purposes.

During college I came to realize that successful artists often have to learn to surrender that internal need for release - to catalyze on will rather than emotion and overcome the fickle ways of the heart to produce work on demand and on time.

I struggled with that challenge for the three years. I was attending The Art Institute full time as well as working a full time day job at The Dispatch and writing full time, playing video games and podcasting as a freelance games writer for Filefront and The Dispatch.

Transitioning from an emotive driven activity to an on-demand skill broke my artistic perspective. Not everyone has this challenge. I've known a few successful artists who can satisfy both needs - the artistic drive and the commercial requirements of professional artistry. I don't think I ever did.

I don't know why, maybe it was the struggle for attention, but in addition to all those demands on my time, being a parent and a husband also became an important element for why I feel like I've abandoned my art. It is hard enough to fight off professional stress and emotional needs that are internal.  When you have others who don't just depend on you for fiscal support, but who seemingly want you involved in their life as well, that's not something I've figured out how to satisfy adequately so I don't engage in the creative work.

Image in pastel c. 2005
Involved parenting is something I had a mixed experience with myself growing up. I recognize that my parents did what they chose to do for their own reasons. I like to think I don't have the full picture and try not to sit in judgement over their choices, though I know very well I do every time I face similar choices with my own children.

Being an involved parent, like you see on TV or in movies, is not something I think I learned growing up. It is not something I'm always comfortable with either. I want to be the dad who is at every event or coaches every sport, but that's not really who I think I am.

The sudden segue to parenting theory may seem jarring in this post, which I claimed was about my art and seemed to be talking about how I struggle to create, but it's actually innately linked. It all ties into how I act when faced with enjoyable outlets.

Perfectionism and pride are two traits I subscribe to in multiple ways - good and bad. I demand commitment to everything I do and from everyone around me. I sometimes become paralyzed and afraid when I feel the urge to create, yet know I can't commit all of my being to the work. That paralysis crystallizes as entropy... creative entropy.

Entropy is poisonous, but it begins in small increments. At first it is basic excuses, but eventually it is ennui that builds until it almost becomes palpable or tangible. I learned to recognize that burst of creative inspiration  and over time to squash or suppress it. I wonder if this is the same basic reason children are so full of wonder while most adults are cynical and dismissive of opportunity.

Sketch - November 2011
Knowing that others expected me to be present and available was a convenient enabler to denying the creativity. It also empowered me to flee the risk of engaging.

Not every moment of creative genius yields worthwhile or viable fruit. Failing is as much a subjective issue with art as with any emotive activity, but for me it always had a far more costly personal impact. Especially when I came to regard it as a resource management concern - if I step away, if I expend the energy or time and it yields crap... well then it was a waste. It was squandering and unsatisfying.

More often than not.. the results of any creative activity are at first middling or raw. Seldom is art refined upon initial delivery or execution. Thus a vicious cycle built and I taught myself, no chose, to abandon that activity as pointless or unfulfilling and disappointing. So, except in the most interesting of times I find myself running away from the very activity I once poured hours of my life and ergs of my energy upon.

Lately, I cope with this fundamental betrayal of myself though writing. Someone once told me that some of the words I put to paper in support of my artwork were pretty good. I'm not sure why I believed that. I'm dyslexic. I once struggled to spell anything correctly (though some would point out that is still the case from time to time - "lense" is no longer a concern however). I can't consistently seem to get the written meter of English grammar and bastardize the comma, fear the semicolon and run screaming from the concision of a simple sentence despite intense experience with Strunk & White and years of professional writing. (as demonstrated here apparently)

The Balrog, c. 2004
However, lately at least, this has become my outlet and like the drawing and sketching before, I sense it losing ground to my perfectionism, my daily stress and my personal standards. I am not looking for endorsement or encouragement, at least not directly. I often feel a piece of my missing soul longs to return, to blaze and burn and I fear the return. I hope one day I can absorb that floating, ethereal part of myself unto the whole again. I know I am still the same at the core, but I'm not yet prepared for the cost.

This blog is about my thoughts. Who I am, what I think. It is not a means to popularity or admonition. It is not a real representation of the person I am on a regular day - when the facade of professionalism and the presence and demeanor I affect is on display.

So, to that I commit these words to the ether in hopes that the next time I'm waxing maudlin about the creative spark, I'll take the time to re-read this treatise and recall that it's not new. It is not something I don't already recognize. It's not something I apparently felt strongly enough about to overcome and surpass. It's just the way I choose it to be right now and eventually the same quirks and traits that got me here hopefully will kick me out of the miasma.


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