Just recently I had someone in my office and as I was rummaging through all the red ink laden papers and moving my two Mac Books out of the way and generally just repositioning the debris of writing, she said to me: “It’s hard work being an artist isn’t it?”
I couldn’t really answer her because I’ve never seen writing as an art. I know that seems ridiculous but I came into the writing thing a little late. My problem was I never listened to my mom who spent thirty-five years telling me I was a writer. So, I’ve been slow on the uptake to recognize what I see as a guilty pleasure as art.
I do love art, but I’m no expert on it. I’m a guy who knows what he likes when he sees it, but I couldn’t tell you why. Art has so many forms; I could make this blog post 10,000 words, so I’m going to use painting to make my case.
I have a friend who is a great artist and I’ve spent some time watching him paint. It was fascinating and frightening all at the same time. He would set up these ridiculously expensive canvasses on an antique easel, take a few tokes of weed and then actually squirt a half tube of four or five different colors of oil paint (also insanely expensive) into this absolutely impossible blob of goo. Then he’d take another toke, lean back, look at the mess and start a conversation.
During the confab, which could be on just about anything, my friend is a very interesting guy, he would start working his brush occasionally scraping away excess paint with some sort of knife like instrument. Pretty soon something would start to take form. It’s like watching magic. Without fail on the occasions I watched this process, it would seem to me just as the painting was finished, he would step back smoke some more pot and then put a huge X over the whole thing. That was the frightening part. The first time this happened, I completely freaked. But, he remained absolutely calm – still talking about whatever while he whitewashed the canvas and started the whole thing over again. And once again, out of all that chaos something amazing would be born.
Talent in its purest form is amazing – watching it happen is a privilege. Which is why I never thought of myself as an artist. I don’t feel like what I do is art or drips with talent. I think about my friend being about to talk while he works (I scream at everyone in the house if I hear a glass clink), get stoned and pull this amazing work out of wherever he pulls it out of – that’s talent.
My work product comes out of constant agonizing. My brain is replete with the white noise of stories whipping around and bouncing off of every receptor of my grey matter going into places I never knew existed and then eventually (usually after years) finding its way out my fingertips onto the keyboard and into the Mac. It never stops even when I’m sleeping. Right now as I write this I have three things cramming up my thought process at the same time. I’m thinking about the ending for a short story that’s going into the follow up to 5 Tales, I’m toying with changing a chapter in one of my novels and I’m thinking about tomorrow’s blog post. With all of that there are related notes on each of those topics everywhere – in reporters notebooks, on napkins, in my iPhone, on Evernote in both computers and I’m sure in places I’ve completely forgotten about. It’s a mess.
Obviously, there is a very blatant analogy just pulsing, ready to burst here. The mess on the canvas compared to the mess in my head and on my desk. So, I guess if I really want to analyze what it is I do, one could say it is art. I’m not sure. I can’t decide if I’m ready to call myself an artist. I guess I’m still a work in progress.