Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Agony and The Ecstasy: Why Being Creative is Sometimes Painful

Sometimes having ideas is a real pain in the neck.

When I was younger, I was never consumed with artistic passion. Certainly, I enjoyed making things--films, drawings, the occasional sculpture. They were a natural outgrowth of who I was and am. But I'm finding as I get older, my ideas are beginning to take hold of me in a way they never used to. While I can never hope to aspire to the level of genius of one of the "old masters," I do begin to see what people mean when they ascribe the phrase, "the agony and the ecstasy" to the life and work of Michelangelo.

When I began to write, I really only had one idea, the idea that birthed Curse Bearer. What began as just a toe in the water of writing quickly became an overwhelming flood that swept me away in the current of creation. I nurtured that idea for several years, and then began to realize quite a few other ideas were rushing along in the current as well.

The Windrider Saga was born and entered the public eye. The Faith and Fantasy Alliance germinated. Curse Bearer finally got published. A steampunk screenplay has taken root in my soul. The second and third books of the Risen Age Archive as well as a fourth Windrider story are in the crowd, demanding to be written. And there's this animation idea--a ministry thing I am capable of executing, given the time. All these ideas are like orphans in the orphanage of my soul. More and more needy children continue to appear on my doorstep. I bring them in, and I do my best to keep them warm and fed. But they are relentlessly demanding. These figurative children don't care that I have other responsibilities--practical ones that aren't nearly as charming--that take up all but a few precious minutes of my waking hours. They want my attention. For me to give them life.

And I want to. That's why it all torments me. I worry that in the next twenty years I will become so eccentric that I will obliterate what few social graces I have, all of them fallen victim to the clamor of stories. But I worry more that I will never be able to give each of these ideas the attention it deserves--that life will continually crowd out the things that ignite my passion, keep me up at night, get me out of bed while it's still dark. I envy those artists in history who had patrons who enabled those artists to do what consumes them. Alas, very few in the arts today can call it anything more than a hobby. There's a reason the stereotype of the starving artist exists--nearly all stereotypes come to be because they are rooted in the truth. Over time, they become a caricature of the concept they represent, but at their core, the reality remains.

So if you see me someplace on my travels, head down, eyes far off, maybe muttering unintelligibly, I do apologize. I don't mean to seem batty. I'm just having a moment trying to to figure out if I'm overjoyed or wracked with pain.

5 comments:

  1. Exactly, Becky. You hit the nail on the head. And, I wonder, if I'm doing a disservice to family and friends by neglecting them. But, to switch it around, am I doing a disservice to God if I neglect the passion he has ignited within?

    Each writer must grapple with this question. For now, I have chosen the passion. God is the author of creation, after all.

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    1. It does end up being a "robbing Peter to pay Paul" sort of lifestyle, doesn't it? I do fear that one day, my children will say "Mom was always so busy." I want to be productive, not busy.

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  2. I can understand this.

    I sometimes feel rather deadened by the sheer volume of writing I would need to do.

    The alternative would be to never make it available to other people and risk losing the most beloved things forever. I do not know how often this has happened, because, of course, I do not remember, and that is why they are lost.

    I have been able to best cope by writing as soon as possible after an idea comes into my head, and make sure not to lose the first part, which I need to be able to write the rest.

    I think when I feel like I want to think of an idea, it is better for me to listen to music or go over what I already have, especially what has excited me before.

    What things do you use to cope with these limitations?

    Maybe because of my age, I do not feel that I should try to make something for publishing yet, but focus on sheer work. I am going to do a different job for my earning, especially at first, and I have other things to do that interest me greatly, so that is no problem for me.

    I think that even if I could make a good earning by writing, my writing would suffer. I have found that it has opened and freed my thinking for my writing, and I am more satisfied by what I do, when I do not think of making something that would sell.

    After all, it is what I write sincerely that I will want to sell. And it will only be what I write sincerely that will satisfy me enough to give me a reason to go on writing with the diligence that will make me a competent writer.

    J. R. R. Tolkien said, I think in one of his letters, that he wrote for his own private pleasure, and was surprised at how much other people liked his work. Interestingly he called his Fantasy writing a “mad hobby” early on as well.

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  3. I'm afraid of the passion, really. I have small children, and I've watched many mothers over the years become so involved in their projects that they neglect their children. Their children then grow up and become drug addicts, drunks, or enmeshed in "alternative lifestyles".

    I well understand the agony and the ecstasy. But there has to be a balance.

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    1. Exactly...I like to think of it as a hierarchy. The kids need to come before the arts, especially because the writing will still be with me in 15 years, whereas my kids will (Lord willing) be on their way to independent lives. That's why I try to do my creative stuff before they get up or after they go to bed. The troubles lies in how little time that really leaves. But I'm with you--I can't sacrifice one of my more important responsibilities in life for the "fun" stuff, no matter how loud it clamors for my attention.

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