I’ve been reading a lot about writing recently, as well as trying to increase my reading of great literature.
I need to write every day. See where it takes me. Maybe I’ll come up with some gems if only a sentence or a character.
I think this is pretty much how I write already, I just end up thinking it’s good enough to let you read it anyway…
Confidence is a definite asset let’s face it. For sure, in my career, it would have been a useful tool long ago.
Why did I have none?
It’s an elusive thing, isn’t it? Confidence is not a solid thing you can hold on to and feel for sure you have – maybe if you did, that wouldn’t be confidence but arrogance?
I’m not sure where I lost a whole barrow load of mine, but somewhere along the way somebody (I have several possible candidates I could put forward) surreptitiously walked away with mine.
Not all of it. I kept a nugget, deep down in the pit of my stomach. A solid little package of confidence that no-one could take from me. I think it’s something my Mum (at least while I was young) helped keep safe, while I allowed so many others to chip away at it.
I say I have candidates, for sure there are some obvious men in my past who took more than their fair share, but I think I really ran with the theory of ‘one hundred compliments and one insult, I’ll take the insult thanks, nurture it, make it all mine, keep it warm and safe and let it fester and grow’.
That’s, sadly, a fairly common sentiment, right?
Those who have the capacity to move on from it, process it differently, see it for what it is, are those whom I admire and aspire to be more like.
Or maybe I am one of them now, I just wish it hadn’t taken 40 odd years to get there!
‘You are so lucky to have a job doing what you love’
A phrase there is no doubt most musicians hear often.
It is true, though I’m not sure ‘lucky’ is the best word.
We work(ed) bloody hard to get where we are. I was fitting 3 or 4 hours a day practice around my school work as a teenager. You have to get your 10,000 hours in pretty early in life to ‘make it’ in the music world.
And then actually being in a position to have a creative outlet in your music-making is not a luxury many musicians have. Generally speaking, there are only 2 violinists on a stage that have real space or opportunity to be creative, and it’s not uncommon to have 24 or more on that platform.
Fortunately, I am often one of those two, but I do my fair share not being too.
It leads me to think about my current multi-faceted life and the different means I have developed to express myself, not really by choice but by necessity.
I started writing around 2012 when I was bashing my head against a brick wall over yet another incident at work where I felt that the way we were being treated was not only unfair but completely ignorant of the effect on everyone’s mental health.
I was writing to the office, trying to explain that it might be good form for them to take this into account when they made their decisions. Halfway through the email, I started, in desperation, to describe the situation in terms of how it would lie in their lives, in their jobs, in their office.
By the end of the email, I felt amazing!
It was the first piece of creative writing I had done in 25 years and for sure the first writing I was proud of, in living memory. English was never a particular love of mine. Neither reading nor writing.
I went back to the beginning of the letter and wrote the entire email into this ‘other world’ I had created.
And then I stopped.
I didn’t need to send it.
I didn’t need to send anything.
When my husband read it he looked up at me quizzically ‘Did you write this, it’s seriously good’.
And the start of my visual art practise?
This, I’ve written about previously so won’t linger here, but it was a similarly desperate situation, this time after a mental breakdown. I just needed a creative outlet and found that initially knitting, quickly followed by sewing were outlets for emotions and actions for my brain, well-needed distractions from the repetitive non stop negative voices.
I took part, as a visual artist, in an exhibition at the OXO Tower many years ago, it was to raise money for The National Brain Appeal.
It was quite an experimental piece for me, and I’ve made nothing like it since.
But it meant a lot to me.
A friend, wrote a piece for me, in the form of a letter to a relative with a progressive neurological condition. The relative had little time left.
It’s a very beautiful letter, heartbreaking in parts.
I made a mobile on which I hung postcards that I felt might have connection to their lives. I wrote the letter on the cards in a series of short messages. Stamped and addressed.
I loved the fragility of the piece.
The sending of the messages to nowhere specific (the address was fictitious).
The ways in which it moved and it’s connection with the effects the neurological condition had on its sufferer.
On reflection, it probably wasn’t my best work, but it was an enriching and challenging experience.
I went to see it in the gallery.
I had put my – and my friend’s – all into that piece, and I wasn’t prepared for such a foreign ‘performing’ experience.
It seems obvious on reflection, but with hindsight, and all that…
I can only liken it to a performance of something you have practised and prepared for to the very best of your ability, but when you get to the performance you find the audience walk around the room.
They aren’t all there.
They stop and look briefly, but they are chatting to the people they are with.
They don’t stop to read the words.
They don’t stop to think.
They don’t stop to process.
I want to make them stop, I want to tell them they are being rude, I want to tell them how much this piece means to me.
But who hasn’t walked around an art gallery like that? It’s pretty normal I think.
What a massively different experience of an art form. What a learning curve.
I hadn’t appreciated how different our natural response and the way we appreciate visual art was so different from the way we absorb music – or classical music at least.
As a captive audience in a concert hall or theatre, convention is to sit and listen, enabled to stop and breathe and let it wash over us or become all engrossed.
I wonder what percentage of people passing through the Art Galleries spend equivalent amounts of time with the works there?
For me, at present at least, visual art (and writing) is a way I can express my emotions right here and now.
I don’t need an audience (though I see the irony in you reading this), at least not in order to ‘perform’. I don’t need to have been employed, or gone to a huge effort to find my own audience.
I can just put it down, and contain it, process it, revisit it in a controlled fashion, on paper, fabric, screen.
In studying this week I was reminded of Louise Bourgeois’ attitude towards, and love of, Geometry.
She studied Maths at the Sorbonne in Paris before deciding to become an artist after the death of her mother.
‘I indicate my space and I put inside my fears. What is in this space is under my control’.
‘The grid is a very peaceful thing because nothing can go wrong… everything is complete. There is no room for anxiety… everything has a place… everything is welcome.’
It is just a fraction of her work that falls so obviously into this category, but in the last few days, I have been doing just this.
I have been drawing on myself. And my family.
Geometrical shapes. Self-contained. Repetitive. Safe.
In the days before Dan died he was drawing on himself.
He was an amazing artist, working in digital, video, photography, sound and installation.
One of the overwhelming things that I was hit with after his death was about our perception of ourselves and how different it can be from how others see us.
It is encapsulated in this photograph:
Do you see here, as I do, an accomplished artist? Successful. You know, being a grown-up. Doing it. Being that person he aspired to be?
I suspect so, however, I’m certain that isn’t how he saw himself.
Let me be clear (if only for myself and my family), this bears no relation to how he sadly passed away, that was an illness, not anything to do with self-esteem or any related issue.
But he did so much. Achieved so much. Made so much art. Produced so much beauty and happiness and touched so many lives.
And yet he, like I’ll bet so many reading this, felt that he wasn’t good enough.
Wasn’t being successful, wasn’t achieving enough, all the sentiments I think one way or another, in some shape or form, we all feel.
So I guess my point is, go look at yourself.
Celebrate what you have done.
All the things.
If getting out of bed was an achievement then that’s worth celebrating.
If getting your family out in time for school, or not in time – but you got them out, feels an achievement, then celebrate it.
Easy to forget, life is short and you, and I, are doing our best.