An Artist’s Paranoia
I’m one of countless artists in the world who work in solitude and hope for public acknowledgement some day down the line.
I happen to be a writer, fiction primarily, but there are many other artistic crafts: painting, drawing, sculpting, metal work, woodworking, stained glass, and on and on and on. Bottom line, artists create and hope beyond all hope that what they create is liked by the masses … or at least one person who is not related to them, or financially obligated to them, or otherwise committed to the person doing the artistry.
I belong to several writing groups on social media. A day doesn’t go by that one of us writer’s doesn’t post a rant or a tear-filled comment such as:
Okay everyone, an agent requested my manuscript last week and said she’d have a look-see over the weekend … it’s now Thursday and I haven’t heard from her … Did she hate my manuscript? Did she even read it? Should I give up as a writer? What in God’s name should I do?
Sound exaggerated? It’s not.
I can’t speak for what it’s like to be an engineer or an accountant or a lawyer, doctor, bus driver, mail person, or what have you, but I can say that paranoia is many an artist’s primary personality trait. Consequently, we crave affirmation in order to continue doing what it is we do.
Remember Sally Field when she won an Oscar in 1984 for her role in the film Places in the Heart? During her acceptance speech she emoted that winning the Oscar told her that “you like me … right now … you like me.”
When that same paranoid author (three paragraphs above) is finally published, she won’t sleep at night without having read every review of her book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Publisher’s Weekly, etc. And for every bad review, she’ll forget the good reviews and the four or five stars awarded her masterpiece, which, quite frankly, is the manifestation of her heart, laid out in the open for everyone to spit and step on.
At that point she may as well give up sleeping entirely until she believes in herself, regardless of what the reviews say, regardless of her Amazon book ranking, regardless of whether someone returns her e-mail right away or not at all.
If artists believe in what they create, if their whole raison d’être is doing what they do come what may, it won’t matter what the critics say … well, it will matter what they say but she’ll still love herself in spite of it.
And if all of you wouldn’t mind reminding me of this fact now and again while I’m on this seemingly never-ending road to publication, I will be forever indebted to you … if it’s not too much trouble … if you have the time … if you think I’m worthy …
Click on these brief stories that describe my delight when a literary agent complimented my short, short stories, occurrences that made my day:
Complimentary words from a literary agent; Positive input from an agent: a welcome gift.
Finding respite in the 21st century
Dissecting disconnection: Why I’m taking the week off tech.
Monica Guzman, Seattle Times writer and blogger, is going off the technical grid for a week – thus the article attached above wherein she analyzes our habits and impulses when it comes to us feeling the need to be instantaneously on top of matters. She’s not disconnecting from all technologies – she intends to watch television and might use a real camera – but she’s staying away from “the ones that know me.”
Ah, respite – what a delightful concept. Lots of us Baby Boomers equate respite to receiving some sort of relief from our caregiving tasks. For example, we might be taking care of a parent, sibling, partner, or spouse and we look for every opportunity for a reprieve from our caregiving chores – or at least we should be. Please see my article Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first.
Respite, however, also relates to resisting the compulsion to send someone a Happy Birthday greeting by sending an e-mail, or going to the honoree’s Facebook page, or sending a Tweet on the person’s Twitter feed – and instead, deciding to call that person for a conversation that lasts longer than it takes to type a 140 character greeting. OMG, MIK? (Oh my god, am I kidding?)
No – I’m serious. I could make it harder on you – and myself – by suggesting that we send a birthday card that would require us to purchase, write, post, and drop the card through the slot of a postal box. I think that would be a great idea, mind you, but that’s not what I’m proposing.
Rejoice in the fact that Facebook reminded you of that person’s birthday. (I know that you received sufficient notice not to miss that person’s birthday because truth be told – that’s how I remember many of my acquaintances’ birthdays each year.) But please resist the urge to send an instantaneous electronic greeting. Think of yourself – I know you can – and think of what it feels like to receive fun mail, such as a birthday card, or simply a “there’s no reason for this card” card. You liked that feeling – didn’t you? Now I want you to also think about how it feels when someone calls you to personally wish you happiness – just you and the person that called you. That’s a one-on-one attention connection.
Drop a note, make a call, but leave the 140 characters for some other important message, like:
I had a glazed doughnut and a cup of coffee for breakfast then washed my hair and can’t do a thing with it! Isn’t that just the worst thing ever?
Go ahead and count – there’s 140 characters there.
Thursday in the News
Here’s some fabulous news to report from a town called North Bend, Washington that’s located not far from where I live:
An inclusive camp for burn victims called Eyabsut (which means: to rise above anything), is a camp where “everybody is different here and every body is the same” says Camp Director, Jeanette “JD” Day, also a burn victim.
At this camp, no one stares at them because of the way they look; the children and adolescents feel normal; for one week a year they feel as though they fit in.
The camp is sponsored by the Washington State Council of Firefighters Burn Foundation. You can also find links to this foundation through your Facebook account. Camp Eyabsut almost died last year but a last-ditch fund raising effort kept it going and it’s now in its 26th year.
What an exceptional effort for some pretty exceptional human beings.
Snail Mail (personal) vs Electronic Mail (impersonal)
I’m thrilled that instant information rules our day for the most part and I’m SUPER thrilled that we can communicate via Blogging, but I’m also a proponent of posted/written communication.
First of all: Blogging.
I think us Bloggers relish the opportunity to “be published” on the Internet because not many of us will ever have a byline in a syndicated newspaper, and book-publishing just seems too hard a goal to attain. With that said, however, I write with this in mind: job counselors often advise employees to dress for the job they want, not for the job they currently hold, so I’m Blogging with a publishing intent that takes me out of my home-office and into the homes of others. If I can’t get others to read my articles, I may as well be writing in a personal journal. So blogging is a great venue in which to reach the masses.
But I LOVE the written word. I own a Kindle, actually, I’m on my second Kindle, and that’s the only way I read books, be they fiction or non-fiction. I’m such a voracious reader, I’m convinced Kindle was invented just for me. 🙂 So when I say I love the written word, what I’m really saying is that I love letter writing. I own stationery, n. paper and other materials needed for writing, and I have a large accordion file that holds greeting cards, n. a decorative card sent to convey good wishes. (Definitions from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2004.) I love sending cards and I love receiving cards, but mostly I love sending them.
Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times staff columnist wrote a piece that appeared in our local newspaper on January 13, 2012: For The Love of A Letter. She writes how wonderful it is to receive a piece of mail with our name on it, written in hand, which becomes “a bit of humanity among the bills and slick circulars.” She correctly states that the written letter is becoming a dying art, so much so that the United States Postal Service faces a very bleak, if not brief, future. Certainly e-mail is quick and doesn’t require one of those pesky, ever-changing-in-value postal stamps. Evites are quick and oh so engaging – NOT- as we read respondents’ comments about why they can’t attend. But Evites are pretty darn impersonal. Ted Kennedy Watson, owner of two Seattle shops with all things paper, states in Ms. Brodeur’s article that he “gets ‘hundreds’ of emails a day, some invitations to events that, en masse, lose some of their luster. You start to feel more included than invited.”
En masse communications – you’re simply one of the many e-mail addresses in someone’s global e-mail address book. I know we’ll always rely on this form of instant communication – I certainly do – but Ms. Brodeur hits it on the nail when she says that she hopes that “we don’t tweet or tap away the value of putting thoughts to paper, of taking the time.” (Even a “Dear John” written letter is more personal and respectful than a “Dear John” e-mail or text message.) She talks about letters that she’s saved over the years which instantly brought to mind one of my most valuable letters; one which I keep in my fireproof safe: the last letter my mother ever wrote to me. My parents still lived in Hawaii when I moved to the Seattle area in June of 1994 and my mother and I spoke on the phone at least two times a week. But it was her letters that I relished the most. One of those letters arrived in my mailbox on September 22nd, 1994. I read it, placed it to the side, and went about the rest of my day. Two days later my mother died in her sleep quite suddenly and inexplicably. When I received the news in a phone call from my father that day I frantically looked around for my mom’s letter hoping that I had not tossed it in the recycle bin. Glory hallelujiah – I had not. So two days before my mother died, I have her thoughts on paper, in her handwriting, and signed “Love, Mom” at the bottom of the second page.
Somehow I don’t think a saved e-mail could ever render the memories and the sentiments that my mother’s handwritten letter does every time I retrieve it from the safe to read it.
Facebook (I have an account) and Twitter, and other social sites can continue to do what they do, but let’s not dispense with the antiquated and/or archaic practice of putting pen to paper. Please?