Portrait of the Artist as a 40 Year Old Woman

The thought of being creative isn’t really something an artist sits around and ponders. There isn’t time.

What they do sit around and ponder is amazingly ludicrous. I remember in third grade staring at my hands, poring over my skin tone and texture, and wondering, “What keeps my skin from floating off my body?” Or asking my mother to draw a picture of a horse and hearing her respond, “Oh, I’m not very good at drawing. Go ask your father,” and thinking to myself, “Why don’t you just try?” It never occurred to me that other people were afraid to draw. I just assumed everyone did.

Wondering what a tongue feels like to another person when they kiss yours. Trying to make the color of the sky out of chalk on paper. Wishing I could have gills so I could feel water flow through my neck. Thinking about elevators and who invented them, or the peeling paint on the side of an old house or the rhythm of words pouring out of a singer’s mouth. It is a constant dialogue in my head. Where did all these questions come from? When will I have time to hear all the answers? When will the voice in my head please shut up? And what do I do with all these thousands of bits of paper that have notes and drawings, sketches and ideas? When will I have time to make all this stuff I’m so excited to have thought up?

I remember seeing the movie “Amadeus”, and thinking the composer Salieri represented my fate in life. I identified with how he felt; aching and pushing to be the best (because he generally loved creating music), but he could never truly release himself to be fully unaware, to be in that moment of pure passion where the music releases itself, effortlessly, from within. I knew his pain, in particular when someone else, who naturally has that ebb and flow, receives accolades we wish were our own. Still, I identified with Amadeus, too, in the way that he didn’t have to think about making music, it just came through him, as if heavenly sent and assured. It was a relief to see these two sides of my brain, the contradictions of my heart, the push-me pull-you of the muse living on screen. I knew at that moment I wasn’t alone in my nutty behaviour. I realized being an artist would be a life of fabulous torture.

Next time I’ll talk about insomnia, but right now I’m too tired.

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