Last Friday, JT, wrote an eloquent post about owning her past creativity. She marveled at downplaying the stunning poem she wrote at age 10 and how, now, she negated or belittled so much of what she’d produced in her early years as a writer.
Her post stayed with me because I’ve been thinking about the role of creativity in my own life. This self examination began intensely in January when a tectonic rift in my marriage opened too wide. The resulting disaster area will soon translate into an informal, but very real, separation. After the initial shock and despair – much of which remains with me, albeit in more muted tones – I’ve found myself exploring this singularly important conflict in our years together.
In a nutshell, my fiction hasn’t lived up to the promise of making a solid income. From my husband’s perspective, my taking the time and space to write has been selfish, self-focused and a waste of time and resources.
Though I’ve also spent those years raising two beautiful children so that they radiate self-confidence and kindness, I’ve slowly bought into the myth that I’m a failure in many areas of my life. And, yes, writing tops the list. Sure, three of my books have been published traditionally and two have garnered national nominations. Still . . . I can’t get past the sensation that there should be more to show for my work. And that that more is, no matter how crass it might seem, money.
What, then, is creativity? Does the outcome matter more than the process?
Is its true worth measured by projects finished rather than the journey of creation?
If something doesn’t sell, is it somehow less valid than something that does?
I’ve been looking hard at these questions during this incredibly transformative time in my life and have come to a few conclusions . . . for me. First of all, the journey is tremendously important. The process of discovering my characters’ stories, of bringing them to life and crafting them is very satisfying. And though money and fame may not be the end goals anymore by which I choose to judge myself vis a vis my fiction, finishing my stories and getting them to readers in some form are.
And I’ve decided that if nurturing my creativity is selfish, then that’s fine. In the coming weeks, months and years when I’m alone – when my children are staying with their father or have grown beyond needing either one of us – I intend encourage this impulse even more in my life.
And what that means is that I commit, without fear of failure, to keep this part of my nature healthy and alive too . . .
One of the interesting byproducts of all of this thinking and turmoil is that I’ve begun to “doodle.” A few months ago, I started feeling an overwhelming need for color in my life. Rather than suppress the compulsion, I went with it and bought a big pad of sketch paper and a bunch of magic markers.
And I started to draw this . . . .
Since then, I’ve created dozens of the things – each different and each very important to me. The process has become a nightly practice, a meditation of sorts though I might have music or the television on in the background while I work. Some are quite complicated . . .
. . . while others are more soothing to the eye.
I have two rules with this healing work. I must finish what I start (I have the same rule with my fiction) – and for the moment, I’m still requiring myself to fill the page rather than leaving white space.
Now that I have so many, I’m considering turning some of them into cards or writing about them on my private blog — if I figure out how to photograph/reproduce them well. Even though I didn’t start creating them to make money, they might provide a little necessary income. But the difference with these – and with my writing from here on out – is that it doesn’t matter.
And that’s enough.
What about you?
Have you explored similar questions?
Do you think creativity is inherently selfish? Is that bad?
Is there a validity correlation between creativity and monetary outcome?
Pari . . . . Very generous of you to share that intimacy of feeling with us. I am just . . . stunned. I can't imagine how devastating the experience must have been for you, that anyone would even think that, but to think . . . to say that . . . I usually have no shortage of expletives, but this is . . . different.
I am not surprised that creativity is helping you heal.
Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories.
Thank you for such a moving post.
I especially love "I'm creating. And that's enough."
I don't think pursuing one's passion is being selfish at all. I wish more people would follow their hearts and dreams. Then maybe there would be more happy people.
Unfortunately, we place monetary value on everything. If one's book/painting/sculpture/whathaveyou doesn't sell, then it's worthless. If you aren't going to make any money, then why bother?
To quote a line from "Mannequin": Create, honey, create!
It takes courage to create and you have it, especially given the hell you've gone through in your personal life. Heart rending beautiful post and your art work is stunning. Continue your wondrous journey.
It takes courage to create and you have it, especially given the hell you've gone through in your personal life. Heart rending beautiful post and your art work is stunning. Continue your wondrous journey.
I don't think other people are selfish for using their time and resources for creativity . . . but I suspect that I am, often, and at the expense of my family.
So I write before the kids get up and after they go to bed, and try not to delay one or rush them into the other. I steal an hour here or there, while they're watching TV, but agree to play with them or read aloud whenever I'm asked . . . and I still feel guilty for thinking of stories while i'm with them. I don't know if being published (or even paid) will make it better.
Your art is beautiful — I love the unfolding flower.
Creativity is not selfishness, but I think many people don't understand how necessary it is to those of us who are driven to create. And also how we are driven to carve out time and space for the creating. Further, how necessary it is for society and some segment of it serves this creative function. Patronage was a good thing, and I wish it would come back into our culture as a way to support creative artists of all kinds.
I also think if you tease apart the creative "strings" within a family, it becomes clear that most creative family members offer a lot to the day-to-day enrichment of life – to the household, the family as a whole, the children. It's easy not to see it or to count it as having value, but if you ask the children, or just watch the children, it clearly does.
Your doodling is beautiful and reminds me of mandala work.
I have absolutely struggled with this – I think I was lucky in that my husband from the beginning wanted and fully supported my staying home with our children. And that my work as a therapist has allowed me to flex my work hours according to the needs of our family.
WRT the writing, I am just this past year beginning to earn money from books. We have considered (and talked about this at some length) the idea that me modeling the pursuit of a creative path is a gift to our children – who I hope pursue their own passions and if necessary choose to live simply and happily doing what they love.
The only way they will know how to do that is if I/we model it for them.
I think your beautiful and colorful pictures are evidence that you're on the right path for you. Sending good thoughts your way!!
Creativity is probably selfish, but so is working out, reading for pleasure, napping, watching TV, playing sports, etc. And working crazy hours because of ambition.
Anything you do for yourself could be defined as selfish.
But why should people be selfless all the time? And, Pari, I'm betting you spend way more time
doing things for your girls than you ever spend on yourself.
I don't think income determines value for writing or art. Picasso painted amazing works and Hemingway wrote some of his best books before they ever made money.
Personally, I have an emotional need to make money (I don't through creativity) and even if I was independently wealthy, I'd probably still want to do something that made money.
I am so sorry for your troubles and I my immediate reaction is why must women do everything? And have an outside full-time job on top of it all? It seems most unfair. As for creativity, it isn't selfish, it simply is. It plays out in different ways. That being said, I don't necessarily feel creative. But I have to avoid the trap of comparing myself and my work to others, because then, I don't work fast enough, I'm not productive enough. And I'm certainly not paid enough. I am most grateful I'm not working the day job anymore, though I don't know how that can last. Please take care of yourself at this time.
My dear Pari
Ultimately, your creativity is something that should not be denied. It is a fundamental part of you and asking you to live without it is like asking someone to dispense with air.
Know only that you have the unending support of your 'Rati friends.
Good morning, all.
Thank you. I hope I don't make my husband sound like a monster. He's not.
However, the role of creativity — in both of our lives — has been a constant source of tension and conflict.
That's why I'm looking at this time in my life as transformational. There are so many opportunities to grow as a person during this experience. I just hope I grab the ring and fly . ..
Can that be our new chant? "Create, baby, create!"
Thank you for your lovely words. What astounds me is that I've turned so wholeheartedly to creating more, rather than less, through this time. I think it bodes well.
You see, that's what I wonder about. Is it "selfish" to affirm those parts of yourself that bring you joy? Should you have to "steal" hours rather than devote them? I ask because that's exactly how I've felt all these years. I HAVE had time which I haven't used well, and I feel tremendously guilty about that — but I don't think we can force creativity and that's part of the problem.
The output may or may not be there — but does it relate to the amount of creativity a person has or how strong that urge is in a life?
And . . . should we hide this need, compulsion, total joy from our children in the first place?
I think you're so right about the role of creativity in a family.
This concept really hit me:
"modeling the pursuit of a creative path is a gift to our children – who I hope pursue their own passions and if necessary choose to live simply and happily doing what they love."
Yes! I want my children to know this is possible down to the bottom of their hearts.
My husband gave up a lot in this marriage too. I was jealous of the time he took to create his sculptures when we first had children. He got a "responsible" job and embraced the role of the breadwinner for the family. But now he feels like *I* squashed the creativity out of him.
I look at the choices we made throughout all of these years — consciously and many unconsciously — and realize that part of the reason he might feel I'm a failure in this area is that he wanted to be pursuing his own dreams and didn't know how to carve out the time for himself.
I truly hope he finds a way to do it.
Pari, I'm sorry you've had to go through tough times because you are creative and I'm glad you have chosen to embrace it as part of your life. I've had one glorious year off work to write and paint. It's been an amazing gift. Now I have to find work, but like you, I'll keep doing creative work, because if I don't I'll probably shrivel up and die. We can't all be muggles.
I loved making good money before I married and had children. I'm heading back into the full-time market again as a result of this change and I'm sure it will be gratifying.
As to being selfless all the time . . . I think you're on to something there. I put so much aside in taking care of my children and family and am very happy I've done so. I found true fulfillment there.
The creativity component now is coming to the fore and will have a chance to be there given this new arrangement. I hope I have the courage to really embrace it.
Thank you so much. I can feel your kindness through those words.
As to women doing everything, yes, I think we are expected to do just that. Now I will — sans the role of wife — and am only a tad afraid.
The day job, at least in my case, will be a welcome affirmation of my abilities and intelligence. I certainly hope that's how it plays out.
Creativity selfish? To say that to people like us is the same as saying that breathing is selfish.
Sorry he doesn't get that.
I don't think output is the only measure of creativity. And I do know that when my writing is going well, I'm a much more pleasant Mommy (and wife) to be around. So is it selfish to want to be a more pleasant person, even if it means taking time away from the people I most want to be pleasant to?
Urrrgh. . . .
" . . .should we hide this need, compulsion, total joy from our children in the first place?"
Very, very good question. My first reaction was , "NO!" and I think that's the right answer, at least for me. My kids paint and we make things together and dance . . . but writing is so solitary, how you you share? Maybe when my kids are past the age where together time has to be active to be enjoyed?
With luck, I'll figure this out before they leave home!
Wow. Pari, I'm sorry that you are going through this stress. Very helpful questions in the post for the rest of us though (so thank you).
Creativity has been an area of tremendous pain for me, for similar failure and worth issue reasons. My husband is pretty supportive, but my upbringing is and was not – success is money, designer clothes, luxury cars, boats, fur coats, and flaunting. Suckers and losers have jobs they care about, since money and posturing is everything. I heard this, and that I had better shape up and do well because all of the money spent on raising and educating me could have been used for "diamonds, furs, Cadillacs and trips to Europe instead" (and should have been, that implication was clear) for decades, so I'm currently a sort of blocked unhappy professional. I've published a lot in my professional field (that does not interest me in the least) but still just cannot bring myself to respect myself and my creative work – how could anything be worthy if it doesn't immediately translate into something that my Mother could respect (like a fur coat or boats – she knows a surgeon who owns THREE BOATS)? Though to my credit, not a cent I've earned has ever been spent on a diamond, fur, boat or Cadillac – I am a plain Chevrolet gal through and through.
I want to believe that creativity is worthy and not selfish. I can believe it for others – but I really can't give myself that gift yet.
Pari, your works are gorgeous. Something is breaking open in you, it's evident in the openness and power of these pieces that have flowed out of you. Multidimensional and vivid and vibrant. Those are the words that come to mind, and that is you. These works have captured you.
I, too, write and do art, and I've published and sold a little bit. Nothing that I could ever live off of. But I celebrate every day that I am living my passions. I do them regardless of whether people pay me (or pay me well) to do them. Maybe someday I'll make it big with art and/or writing, but for now, I give what I can and that is enough.
I'll be first in line to buy your cards, Pari. 🙂 Onward!
Pari, I'm so sorry to hear. What a hard year this has been for so many of us.
Please remember that people say horrible things when they're lashing out in the throes of splits. Questioning ourselves is always good, but use salt liberally!
To me, you're talking about two different issues, money and creativity, and the third issue they combine to form. I don't think it's fair fighting to say: "Your creativity is selfish." Your creativity is YOU. If there was a problem with earned income, then that I thing could have been more fairly dealt with as a money issue. And who hasn't had money issues since the recession?
All nothing but my opinion, but you asked.
Oh, Pari, I'm so sorry you're having to go through this. But as your new creative outlet shows, you have limitless strength within you. Be well. Be strong. Be creative.
Curses abound upon your head, Roma, I want to be the first. Pari, you simply must find a way to reproduce the "flower" in a card. Selfishly, I want it I want it I want it.
You must register the name Doodles, Inc. or Doodle Drawings or Doodle Cards or Cards by Doodle
or Doodle Creations- And sell those cards on TV, and do lithos or something with the originals.
Have you seen Shirley Valentine? If not, you must. Your husband. My heart goes out to him. I am so glad you have the inner strength to hold steadfast to your self.
You are on a magnificent journey and have in your knapsack everything you need. I am so confident you will prevail. I am terrifically excited for you.
Pari, thank you for sharing this struggle with such unflinching honesty and compassion. I know that tension around creativity resonates for me. I recently took a class having to do with creating balance and purpose in one's life, and the teacher addressed the "selfishness" issue head-on. She said that, although women (in particular, and since this course was all women) often feel and are told that they're being selfish for doing things which nourish their own souls, in truth we are able to show up more effectively for the others in our lives when our own souls are well-nourished. The tree, after all, can only provide life-giving shade to other animals when its own need for water is well-met.
Along these lines, you might find the book "Women Don't Ask" by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever to be of interest – it talks at some length about all the reasons why women in our culture so thoroughly discount their own needs, and how to change those patterns.
And, I hope you know that your Murderati community is here for you during this time of upheaval. As the Talmud says, happiness that is shared is doubled and sorrow that is shared is halved. We're all, I think, here for you, to help you double your joys and halve your sorrows.
Your post struck a lot of chords with me. I always felt I had do it all, hence the creativity part suffered and as a result, I was unhappy…being unhappy has its own issues. I am turning that around but I'm not sure I'd do it the same way again. In any case, it didn't save either of my marriages to work fulltime and carry the load. I went to law school ten years out to get "control" of my life (i.e., make money) and 25 years later, it worked but the novels languish. Still scratching my head over the trade off.
As for color, I embraced tons of it in the last three years rebuilding my life alone….I have bright yellow walls in my large living room in which I have held live house concerts, bought multicolored new fiesta ware and gave him all the old white dishes, and increased my water color painting.
Keep up the painting — maybe switch to acylics and keep it nice and bright. Although we are word smiths, sometimes we need to stimulate the visual sense and that's just the way the expression wants to manifest.
Change is hard, inexplicable sometimes, but surviving it, all good. Hang in there, and embrace your creative self and don't let it go.
And what Tammy said, halved and doubled.
I'm sorry for your experience. It sucks to have one of the pillars of your life crumble from under you.
"And . . . should we hide this need, compulsion, total joy from our children in the first place? "
Why on earth would you do that? Why hide any joy from your children in a world where there's already not enough of it? How will they learn to be joyful if you hide it?
Pari, I'm so sorry to hear about your impending separation. Having been through separation & divorce before, I can say that although it can be devastating initially, it is a catalyst for growth and change. I am a firm believer that creativity has saved my own life in the past, and I don't think you should ever give it up – to do so is soul-destroying. Aside from working on memoirs, I also took jewelry-making classes with my father while going through a divorce – it was a wonderful way to connect with my dad, and the creative process of making art I could wear and share pulled me out of the despair of divorce. It kept me grounded. I taught my children that creativity is a key to life. When everything else seems to compound to bring us down, losing ourselves in our creativity can be a lifeline. It is as important as work, working out, leisure time, and I think we have to make the time for it.
I think your doodles are wonderful, and I would love to buy cards of them – blank inside so I can add my own message. I have a friend who paints with watercolors and has her paintings reproduced at Kinkos to sell at craft fairs. She finds the photocopies are often more vibrant than the originals. I'm certain the markers would translate to copies just as well though.
I enjoyed your novels immensely, and I can't wait for more. It's how I found Murderati – I am waiting for the news that the next one is available.
I hope everything works out well. Please don't lose your creative spirit.
I'm sorry too. Until things really blew up this time, I didn't realize just how differently we perceived this.
I think the way we share is by example. We make creativity a personal and family priority. We praise our children when they let it blossom in themselves AND we nurture it — and talk about it — in our daily lives.
I pray with my whole heart that you're able to start giving yourself that gift. It'll open avenues you hadn't even considered.
The whole issue of failure and worth vis a vis creativity is a demon we must conquer. Otherwise we're slaves to others' perceptions and rules. And that's one hell of a way to waste a life, don't you think?
Thank you so much for your beautiful words. I admire you tremendously and so they mean that much more. Onward, indeed.
If it had been said in lashing out, that might have been different. This has been a constant and boiling issue for years and years; that's why it's gotten under my skin so well.
But you're right about the merging of issues — and that they should be separate. However, I think many, many people don't know how to untangle them and that's the nut of the problem, isn't it?
I'm starting to tackle those knots but they're tight and made of multiple layers.
Thank you. And back at you!
Wow, Judy. I"m speechless. What incredibly optimistic and loving words. Thank you!
Bless you, Tammy.
I don't want to give the impression that I'm some kind of martyr. The problems we've shared are long in the making and mutually created. But this whole issue of affirming the creative within WITHOUT guilt is one that I'm really focused on right now.
Halved and doubled. Thank you.
It's good to hear that you, too, found the need for color. I've wondered where this one came from. I'll also take your advice and branch out into other tools when I'm ready. The visual aspect of this personal therapy/meditation really intrigues me and I'm truly enjoying it.
As to the trade offs in your own life, I hope that the writing becomes a source of joy and activity for you again. I've solved that a bit by not requiring any particular length to my sessions, only that they be daily.
Halved and doubled. I'll take it!
Bless you, Chris. Yes. You get it.
JD, well said.
I'm not sure how to begin, so I'll just plunge.
I sold Devil's Redhead when Terri was dying. I had a long talk with my agent one day while Terri was lying in the next room. When I hung up, I went to tell her the news. She had the covers pulled up to her eyes, which were rimmed with darkness from the chemo. She said: "You're going to become famous now and you're going to leave." It broke my heart. I sat down, took her hands, said, "Oh baby, I'm never gonna leave you."
I never did, of course, but like you, I looked back and saw that that strain had been there the whole time, my desire to write fueling her fear of abandonment, even though I was so fiercely loyal the family called me Bulldog. (She had admitted to me how much my loyalty meant to her, but the fears were deep and cancer does weird things — two weeks later she didn't even remember saying this.) I'm not sure how that would have played out had Terri lived — and we adored each other. These things are never simple or easy.
No one can judge a marriage from the outside. You sound like you're evaluating it wisely, though I can only imagine the ax blade of grief, rage, confusion and self-doubt lodged in your chest (or perhaps it's in your back?). I think Alexandra's remarks are on point. The money could have been addressed by itself, and time for each of your creative lives could have been negotiated — not perfectly, since you'd both have to make concessions. But it could have been dealt with. It sounds to me like he gave up on his own creativity, out of fear perhaps, and now blames you out of guilt. BUT — see my preceding comment about no one understanding a marriage from the outside. (How breezily onlookers castigate the car-crash victims.)
As for creativity being selfish, I loved Shizuka's take on it, and the whole idea that self-expression is self-ish reminds me of the Ayn Rand canard that all altruism is essentially egoistic. Spoken like the conniving, greedy, jealous, acquisitive hack she was. (Nietzsche for Dummies, as I say.)
Better this observation from Simone de Beauvoir: "She who speaks to us from the depths of her loneliness speaks to us of ourselves." By being creative, we connect and express with the life-giving places within us, and by doing so affirm those places in others. Creativity by its very nature seeks to affirm and connect. It seeks to bring forth from the darkness, the unknown, the inner, something inexpressible, which once expressed touches another.
The sneaky, nameless joy of seeing great works of art is the strange sense of recognition. Even though what we're seeing or hearing or reading is unique and new. It is that touchstone of recognition that makes creativity unselfish. We are not expressing ourselves out of a need to be seen. We are expressing ourselves to connect our sense of the ineffable with that of others.
Which is why financial success is so problematic. None of what I just said fits any marketing manager's sense of the world. Artists make things that you sell, and if people like what the artist makes, she should make a lot more just like it, just a little different.
If you can be creative within than construct, fine. If you can't, accept it, but don't fault yourself. There are some who do it brilliantly — Ed McBain, James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard, Patricia Highsmith. There are a great many who don't. (I seem to love writers who can best be described as "The best kept secret in . . .") Kate Atkinson is wearying of Jackson Brodie, even as her agent is hammering her for the two next books for the sake of a BBC deal. And marketing chases fads, which are fickle and fleeting. (Excuse the alliteration.)
It sounds to me like you are embarking on your forty days in the desert. You're making a personal journey to a deeper understanding of yourself. Creativity seems to be a crucial part of that journey for you. Denying that will feel — and I believe, be — an act of self-mutilation. Instead, own the loneliness and the desire and create from there.
You will speak to us of ourselves.
This is an odd forum to express fondness and admiration, but you have mine in spades.
Sweetie, you know how sorry I am that you're going through this. I hate the thought that creativity is selfish. That's so wrong, on so many levels. Especially when it's tied to the financial aspect.
Of course we want to make money for our art. I'm distrustful of people who say otherwise. But this is a bizarre living we're all trying to make. Totally dependent on others, rather than in our own hands. It can be frustrating for us at best, and for those around us – well, it takes special spouses to be patient and understanding when the vagaries of publishing kick in.
But, and I can't emphasize this enough, you are a spectacular, wonderful creative beast, and you deserve nothing but joy and love and support. And you have that with us. And you'll find it in your private life again too. xoxoxo
Pari, no . . . no, not a monster. I was talking about feelings . . . and not doing very well with it.
Thank you so much for your kind words and for extending an understanding hand. I appreciate your comment and take heart from your experience. I am trying hard to keep the idea of transformation at the forefront of my mind, to hold onto it and cherish it.
As to the book, I'm close to posting a new one online. It'll be a different series, featuring Darnda Jones (whom you've met), and will only be electronic. I'll let you know as soon as I get it up.
Where do I start? Oh, man. Your story about Terri broke my heart. I know you faced this and you're right about a marriage only viewed clearly from the inside. But your assessment of the dynamic with my husband and creativity is, I think, spot on. At least it looks that way from in here.
"It sounds to me like you are embarking on your forty days in the desert. You're making a personal journey to a deeper understanding of yourself. Creativity seems to be a crucial part of that journey for you. Denying that will feel — and I believe, be — an act of self-mutilation. Instead, own the loneliness and the desire and create from there."
Oh, holy crap. I'm gobsmacked.
J.T., Thank you, sweetie. Seeing you in Santa Fe and being able to feel your love in person really helped. And even virtually, it's helping now.
I deeply appreciate those feelings . . . they weren't badly expressed at all. There've been times during this last 1/2 year or so when I've felt like my own worst enemy. Right now I'm practicing compassion — as best I can given how ungenerous I occasionally feel — towards everyone in my life . . . everyone, including me.
I'm so sorry to hear about your separation. I think Alex and David hit the nail on the head – money and creativity aren't always necessarily the same issue, and no, there's not a validity connection between creativity and income.
I’m convinced that artistically gifted people must create, or something essential in them dies. So you’re not selfish, you’re trying to stay alive.
Hang in there….
Pari hi, thank you. so much I want to say. just cannot today. too many Sz and can't. so I will when my head clears. Creative is what you are, not a bargaining tool. Dunno if i siad that right. ok later.
" . . . you're trying to stay alive."
You know what? I think that puts it best of all. And it's so true.
Your last comment is appropriate after Rae's. A person shouldn't have to bargain to stay alive.
oh my god, Pari, thank you for this. You have voiced so many of the dark thoughts I know I have had – about value, about worth, about the validity of our pursuits – of that which we most love to work at. I'm so so sorry that your husband has not been as supportive as he should be, and that you (like me) have doubted yourself. But I have no doubt whatsoever that you'll come out the other side – making art, writing, loving, nurturing and being nurtured. Hey, you did that with this post, whether that's what you meant or not.
It's funny -we only met once, but I just got such a great vibe off you – creative and confident – that it amazes me that you could be in doubt. And it thrills me that you are maybe finally able to see yourself as I see you – creative, vibrant, color-full.
It just sucks that you're going through this. Not a fun part of the journey. But thank you for voicing it – there are a lot of us out there, and you've spoken for us.
big hugs. If you ever find yourself in Somerville, there's a creative retreat waiting for you (or at least a lawn chair and cat!)
Pari, thank you for confirming that for me. Some days I think I should have a personal editor. Hah!
I look forward to your e-book. I adore your stories.
When I worked as a mediator, I saw that a lot of positive transformations can come out of life's greatest challenges. It's really good that while you're in this situation, you are not focused on only the negatives (like so many people tend to), but actively seeking the positives, the opportunities, and looking for and nourishing your own growth. That will help you find your balance. Good or bad the present is a history of our own creation. Create wisely, with the best of intentions, and enjoy your creativity.
I love your character, Darnda, and how she got her name – I can't wait for the e-book! 🙂
I felt/feel exactly the same way about you! Thank you for your lovely words. I hope I"m able to see myself as you see me sooner than not.
And I knew in writing the post that many more of us suffer from these infernal questions than most of us would admit.
Thank you. Your words are making me want to get to this project more quickly.
Wow. Words of wisdom indeed.
And, somehow, I thought you'd be a person who'd like Darnda. I just love her and hope to write more stories with her as the star.
Clea . . . ah! I used to live over the P&K Deli in Somerville, on Beacon St . . . cannot believe the connections here on Murderati.
There are many types of payoffs, and we tend to forget that in this commercial society that we struggle to live in. Parenting is – in terms of financial return – thankless indeed. Does that mean it is unimportant? Many people struggle with the balance between raising their children and paying their bills and sometimes the importance of the first gets lost in the day-to-day grind of the second. No one calls you to warn you that your child is overdue on hugs, but be one day late on a payment, and the phone is ringing.
Creativity can also be undervalued. Well, aren't you supposed to want whatever is in fashion? Made in mass amounts? Creativity has so many outlets and expressions. I love making stuff, and I have thought about selling some of it. I haven't come to terms with how I'll get paid, though. I value my time, and it takes time and creativity to make stuff, and people just want it for cost, basically. Still, the act of creating is important to me and my personal well being, so I continue to do it, and when it is for others, it is my gift to them. The creativity that writing takes is never wasted. It is work, and has value, even if the value is only to one's self. Of course, getting paid well is a nice reward, but it is not the only reward.
Pari, Yes I've pursued similar questions. I think what keeps me marginally sane is that I view creativity in a fairly expansive way.
I think of creativity as not just what I produce but more as an attitude or approach to life. If I find myself feeling less than enthused with a task, I let my mind wander and think of what it may take to get me excited about what I'm doing. In turn I've come up with some ideas that amuse me greatly in the moment and have often been able to spin this into something innovative that takes me in direction I'd not considered before. Funnily enough my creative thinking/daring has gained me interesting jobs and the odd award and money. Sweet keep the roof over my head shoes on my children's feet money.
Worse case of some of my jobs is my default setting of … hah this is so going into a story.
In terms of alternate monetary rewards I went a year or so ago to the local modern art gallery in Brisbane, GOMA and saw an exhibition of some of Picasso's work displayed with other artists work that influenced him. That really reinforced the value of associating and surrounding myself with all things creative. . Under one painting of Picasso's was a note that said how he had paid his accountant with this painting. I pointed out to my friend whose husband is a well respected artist. She laughed and said yeah a that's how they get their dental work done. As she explained their dentist is a fan of her husband's work and he likes to surround himself with art at work. I love that their dentist has created a gallery in his work space.
Especially after reading the comments above, this is probably dead obvious, but I think a lot of people have very mixed feelings about creativity and its place in their lives. I think there is a tipping point where people notice its absence and from adversity pull themselves through by tapping back into the well of creativity I think most of us have or they roil around feeling the lack and not putting a hand up to rise out mire. (Yes I'm feeling a bit dramatic about this..)
To me creativity in attitude and in what we produce, and what we share with others is the essence of ourselves. It's for me the difference between living my life in full colour or sepia. I don't think creativity is inherently selfish but then I speak only from my experience.
Ah, Pari, I know this pain well and I'm sorry that now you do too. I've never met you, but I can say with great confidence that you're one of the most selfless people around. Frankly, I think you need to spend more time focusing on what you need and less on what you can do for others.
Most people are creative in some way — we make art or write stories or stitch together a family or a network of friends or bake stuff or sometimes just create chaos. We all make something, even if it's a pure mess. Where we get into trouble is when we create something and society decides to put a price tag on it. That process of valuation is not a reflection of our worth, but a measure of what "society" in that fleeting moment deems important. And society is so often mistaken.
There's so much more I want to say to you, but it's intensely personal (to me) and it's Monday and I'm not feeling particularly articulate and, well, sometimes it's better to just say, "Hey, I've been there too and I know how difficult this has been and will continue to be for you and your kids, but you're going to be just fine. In time."
Sending virtual hugs and much love and patience and wisdom. And thank god for email — the most helpful advice I got was that, yes, there are situations that require a response from you, but none of them require you to give it immediately. Hang in there, lady. Surround yourself and those you love with the creation of good things.
I neglected to say this in my earlier post. Your paintings are incredibly vibrant — which may seem ironic given what you're going through. They almost feel like outpourings — and from what you said, may be exactly that. Trust that. Don't stifle it.
I think it takes a special sort of soul to be the spouse of an artist of any sort, and very few are suited to the task. That's not a condemnation of any sort; just an observation. And two creative people can either be a great blessing, or it can — obviously, my dear friend — go awry. Understanding it doesn't make it any less painful. You're much in my heart.
But oh Pari, those "doodles"! They're magnificent, truly they are! They speak to me in ways I don't even understand, but I agree with everyone else, I want a copy too. Especially of the flower. I can't wait to see where you go with these.
And I'm glad you're still writing. You've probably got all kinds of tumultuous, creative energy going now, and it's a great time to tap it.
First off, I want to stay how sorry I am that you're going through this pain and this separation. I think most people (especially women) go through a lot of self-doubt during separation and suffer from self-esteem issues. But of course, that's only a very small part of it in your case. It's damn hard to juggle creativity with making money, and getting harder by the day/year. Publishers seem more than happy to drop authors if their first couple of books don't hit the sales marks and move on to the next potentially bright star.
It's a weird business we're in, although of course writing is part of us all. And we can't walk away from it just because the business side of writing sucks. I'm sure your creative outlets will help you through these tough times.
Your post has certainly brought up lots of thoughts on this in terms of my relationship. I sometimes feel that my husband doesn't understand the creative process and while in the past I've wished he was creative himself (so he'd understand it more) your post and the responses above have made me realise that perhaps there can't be two creative souls in one marriage. As you say, at some point one person will have to focus on making money – and that person gives up their dreams and resents it.
And, of course, writing is strange in terms of the financial side of things. I sometimes describe it to my friends as being like holding a lottery ticket. You might get nothing back, or you might hit the jackpot and be an 'overnight' success. And that can happen in retrospect too. An author's fifth or sixth or tenth book could be the hit that sends the readers back to buy their full back-list. Voila, from rags to riches. Unfortunately, the reality is this is a small percentage of writers, and most of us only hold a few of the winning numbers.
I do hope your creative pursuits continue to fulfill you and give others enjoyment (as they do now).
Okay, I will overcome my need for privacy and tell you one thing, give you one piece of advice about this process of rending — whether that turns out to be separation or divorce. Do not let anyone, and I mean anyone, tell you how you're supposed to act or feel or do things. There were so many people, many well intentioned and some of them not so much, who told me, "That's now how it's done. That's not how divorce works." And I was polite and I didn't argue, but I had made up my mind that if we couldn't be happy together (and believe me, we couldn't) then we were BY GOD going to do whatever it took to be happy apart and, no matter what, both of us were always going to be parents to our kids. Period.
So we communicated. And I bit my tongue and so did he and I plastered a smile on my face and invited him over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner that first year. And the second. And by the third he was finally in a place, physically and emotionally, where we started taking turns with holidays. And we kept on communicating. It was painful. And awkward. But we faked it until it became second nature. Because if the only choice was to continue being miserable, we might as well have stayed together, miserable, and not hurt the kids (which is a fallacy). The goal was for both of us to be happy again. BOTH of us. And every time someone told me, "but that's not how divorced people act" I just smiled and thought to myself, "Do not fucking underestimate me and what I'm capable of doing for my kids."
It wasn't easy, but it was worth it. It's been years now, marked by many hard fought battles won by sheer stubborn determination, but both my kids thanked me recently for not having one of those divorces that screws up everyone's life forever and results in people being unable to sit across from each other at the table during a family celebration. My ex and I are better friends now than we were when we were married. He spent the past weekend visiting our daughter and her boyfriend in New Orleans and called me tonight to tell me how much fun they had and how much she misses me (hell, that's mutual) and all about how cute their new puppy is and how she (the dog, not my daughter) acts just like our first lab. Because as relieved as we both are not to be married to each other anymore, we're united in our role as parents.
My "creativity" demanded I carve out a future where my kids could be happy and where I could find some peace. So that's what I did. Still working on that whole happiness thing for myself, but I'm not miserable. I'm content. Do not let anyone tell you how you're "supposed" to do this, Pari. Draw your own brightly coloured map.
Beautifully said and incredibly true.
One of the things I think will happen with this separation is that my husband AND I will be able to express that creativity more in our environments/living spaces as well . . . in our daily lives. The dynamics of a marriage are complicated and though we've done each other much good, we've also harmed the other's essence in many ways.
I hope this will be a time of creative healing for us both.
I can feel your deep empathy through the ether here. Thank you. Your view of creativity and the fact that most of us manifest it is, I think, spot on. The valuation concept does get in the way, doesn't it. But it also reflects a fundamental stance that we're looking for affirmation of our creativity from without. I think that can be very dangerous.
But how do artists — writers, dancers, visual artists — balance that with needing to make a living?
David . . .
No way am I going to stifle this impulse with the visual artwork! It means too much to me.
Thank you so much. You're right about the combo of two creative souls. In our case, it did indeed go awry . . .
As to the artwork, I just photographed the first three I did. I have more than 40 now. They're all over the place — and I just keep on doing them. It's an opening of heart.
And my fiction will most certainly grow from all of this, but I'm too much in the middle of it right now to see the progress or increase in authenticity of spirit. It'll all come. I know it will.
Boy did you hit it on the head with this one: "As you say, at some point one person will have to focus on making money – and that person gives up their dreams and resents it. "
And the idea of a lottery ticket is also very good metaphor for our writing careers. Everyone kept telling me that if I just held out for the fifth or sixth book, I'd be one of those people holding the ticket, but I didn't see that happening.
However, that doesn't mean I won't write more Sasha books or others. I'm just not banking on the lottery right now.
Your post made me cry. We're trying for a similar arrangement, one that puts our children first so that they're not injured by this change. I think it's possible that we'll also end up better friends than in our marriage as a result of the separation and probable divorce because we won't have the day-to-day layers of anger and resentment — and general dis-ease — that clouds our interactions now.
. . . and probably has done for years.
I'm going to hold your words and your advice close to my heart.
A long time ago I read the following: "What man (sic) sees as process, God sees as product". That has remained with me, validating the fact that the process is an ends not just a means. In other words, the way I go about creating the product is as important, if not more so, than the actual end result. I believe each of us has an inherent nature to create and I am thankful that there are those like you, Pari, who will not deny that nature. Continue!
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I have been writing for a year and a half and my husband has fought me every step of the way. There is no excuse for his behavior, but I know what the reason is. For the first ten years that he has been with me I had never once told him I wanted to write. I wrote as a child, and as a teenager forgot about it. As a young woman, wife, and mother I simply didn't have time for it. Until one day it hit me like a ton of bricks – there was something missing in my life. I had suppressed my creativity, become my own captor, created my own prison, so to speak. For all the right reasons, of course, money, family, reality…but for me, as for any other artist, our creativity IS our reality. I still struggle every day with the balance of finding time to create my stories and time to make my husband feel safe and secure and loved. I try to give him the space he needs to understand it in his own time…which eventually he'll have to do…because not only can I not change who I am, but I am also unwilling to try.
Women, artists or not, struggle to find a balance between self and everything un-self. Whether it's pursuing a new career, a hobby, friendships, whatever…the need to be selfless stops us all too often. We must allow ourselves to find a balance between selfish and selfless, and not lean to one extreme.
Men do it without giving it another thought! So why can't we?!