Monday, 24 October 2011
Catching The Wave
A spark can come from anywhere. Being an artist is not just about producing the art, but learning how to catch it, bottle it, and release it. I would imagine there isn't a writer reading this who hasn't often had the experience of profound insight, followed by a horrific attempt at getting it down on the page.
Art touches us the most when it captures a piece of who we are on the page, the screen, the stage, the canvas. But how does the artist get it there? This is perhaps the hardest thing of all. That's why artists aren't impressed when someone says "I have an idea". We all have ideas. The professional gets it down on the page.
But I don't mean professional in a traditional sense. This isn't about the discipline of starting your masterpiece every morning at 9am. This is about catching the waves however they may come.
It's as if there are thousands of spirits floating up in the sky; some of them are beautiful and hazy, some are like fierce rockets. You have to be a martial artist, adept at attracting the falling stars.
The information is in the moment. Remember your first kiss? First job offer? Remember when someone you love died? Remember when your favorite team scored? Remember when you were fired? They carry the juice. But how to get into those feelings? How to indulge in them, enjoy them, and then turn them into your art?
It doesn't have to be the signposted life moments that provide the juice. The quieter moments are often more profound. Ever been sitting in the garden staring up at the night time sky, and felt a big wave of the essence of yourself and life? That feeling is unique to you. That essence you need to get into your art.
There are times when I write in a very purposeful and disciplined way, like my recent post about Bridesmaids. Sometimes I just catch a feeling and write from that place in me, like with new york gone. The feeling came without capital letters, without traditional sentencing, it was like a wave, a memory, a feeling. I tried to capture that.
and the last time i left new york i left all my favourite people. and the guy who showed me around queens moved to la and the guy from the plane could be anywhere now and me and the artist kinda fell out and the girl who waited for me that time in jfk packed up her bags and got gone across the world and now i could go back, and i will go back, but so much is gone.
Sometimes you need to be open to exploring the wilderness, to not block any thought that comes, to jump on the wave and see where it goes. Those moments are often the most truthful.
But the thing about my New York post is that it didn't resonate with many people, even though it did resonate with me. This is where you see your own limitations as an artist, or perhaps a lack of experience. It takes people ten, twenty or thirty years to be great. It's a balancing act -- matching your insights with skills and understanding.
There's so much in those extremities. The misery. The hope. The excitement. The romance. The depression. The confusion. There's gold to be mined -- but you can't be too disciplined or writerly about it, because then you miss it! Or crush it! Or scare it away! You need to deeply experience things for them to be of any true use.
That's the problem with blogs. The writers get addicted to their followers, addicted to the comments, comforted by their place on the interweb. The posts become by-the-numbers, shop-front-profound but never quite real.
It's a thing we all struggle with, staying true, capturing the real essence of the life we're going through. That's why we admire the greats, they lived life and reflected it back to us. The geniuses did it again and again.