art, artist, artistic uncertainty, book review, creative process, creative spirit, creative work, creative writing, creativity, desktop publishing, digital art, Evalina Galang, fiction, fiction writing, graphic design, imagery, layout and design, narrative, organic gardening, Oscar Wilde, short stories, short story, thinking creatively, visual art, Voices of Our Nation, VONA, writer, writers of color, writing, writing fiction, writing life, writing process, writing workshop
It’s hard to believe nearly a year has gone by since my last post. I wanted to restart my blog so many times, but inevitably, some new project would get the way. Last spring I started new stories and revised old ones. With a couple of short stories doing their submission rounds, by mid-summer I felt I was on the right track. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing as a serious writer. Then, after the last heat wave of Indian summer came and went, my stories stagnated, not because of lack of ideas, but because of me. A feeling of reluctance and a sense of futility would fill me whenever I opened up a draft I’d been working on. I soon realized I needed to step away from writing fiction for a while.
Although I wasn’t writing fiction, I still had a need to be creative, so I started learning desktop publishing and other digital arts, which I’d been interested in for quite some time but never seemed to have the time for it. Some of my projects have been made into actual physical objects from a chili sauce label to a CD package to a mock literary journal. I hope to post images of some of my projects soon. I loved how each project required me to think creatively in a different way.
I recently picked up a book from the 90’s titled The Creative Spirit, which is based on a PBS series of the same name (I hadn’t ever heard of or seen the show). Flipping through the pages with my new appreciation for layout and design, the photographs and art seemed to pop out. So many were arresting and vivid. The authors assert that engagement in other creative projects can often help you in the art form you are having issues with:
Most of history’s great creators didn’t just have their hands in one basket. They would have lots of different things going on. If they ran into obstacles in one area, they put it aside for a while and moved on to something else. By having multiple projects, you’re more likely to have a breakthrough somewhere…you’re always moving along. (44)
Having these other creative projects required me to stretch in areas I didn’t feel comfortable in, and in the end, helped me to grow as an artist and to approach my fiction writing differently. When I first started working in these visual arts, I was somewhat afraid I’d stop thinking as a fiction writer, perhaps stop seeing potential narratives in daily life.
It was the farthest from the truth. Working with photos, art and design elements actually made me more aware of narratives evoked from imagery, as well as the power of shapes and components – to see not just the narrative around, say, a bed of roses, but to also see the shape and color of the petals, and the curve of each stem, and how each tells a story. Now, when I work on one of my stories, I can see with much more clarity where and what kind of imagery is needed in the narrative.
I originally wanted to write about creativity; perhaps a subject for another time. Instead, what is coming up for me is this sense of uncertainty. I’ve signed up for more classes, which temporarily gives me a sense of order in my day. But I’m uncertain of my future as an artist. I don’t mean this in that wounded-artist kind of way. I mean it literally. I honestly don’t know what is unfolding in my artistic future.
Since being drawn to art forms other than fiction writing, I began to wonder if the Universe was trying to tell me something; that perhaps writing fiction should take a back seat to other endeavors. But as soon as I considered this, I received an acceptance to this year’s Voices of Our Nation (VONA) workshop, the only multi-genre workshop for writers of color. (I was selected for the fiction residency with M. Evelina Galang!) Of course, I must see that as a sign too, and now I’m scrambling to finally finish the story I’ve been working on for the past year.
Maybe the only certainty for the artist or writer is that giving up never gets you to where you’re heading. And where you’re heading is always uncertain, never concrete, since the future rarely unfolds the way you’d planned or envisioned. Of course, there is no guarantee for success, so for the writer or the artist, there is always risk.
Jim Collins, an avid climber and lecturer at Stanford’s School of Business, compares climbing to creativity:
In climbing, if you’re bold and just go ahead and do it, when you run out of protection you think of the consequences of a fall. It’s then when that you start getting really creative, and working hard to stay on the rock. Here at the business school, we’re trained to keep our options open. But if you spend your life keeping your options open that’s all you’re ever going to do. You can’t get to the top of the mountain by keeping one foot on the ground. (p. 42)
I have to admit that it’s difficult to be Zen about the risk I’m taking; on most days, as long as I’m in the middle of creating something, I can keep my worry at bay, although, Chuck Jones, the legendary animator of Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote, believes the anxiety or fear that comes up is essential in any creative work:
Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity. But it’s the recognition of the fear and the willingness to engage it that matters. Fear is the dragon and you are the knight. Any knight that didn’t wet his steel britches before he went into combat wasn’t a very good knight….anxiety is vital. But the openness to face it is what makes an artist. (45)
Along with design and digital art projects, I continue to write fiction and book reviews, and I’ve even started organic gardening. I don’t know where all this creativity is heading, or if one particular path will dominate in the end. All that matters is that I am finally listening to my creative self and pursuing what I love, which is to create meaningful art whether it is in my fiction writing or graphic design.
As a writer, artist or creative person, how do you continue to create despite the rejections, the risks and the reality of every day living? How do you deal with the anxieties that arise either in your creative process or in your commitment as an artist?