Monday, January 25, 2010

Here be dragons

[Disclaimer: This post is full of complaint and whining sarcasm and offers no advice of any real value.]

I can hear my myself think and its not pretty
The tricky part of course is what you hear when you start to listen. Because long before your brain quietens enough for you to take in the angels' noisy trumpets, or the soft shuffling of their slippered feet, long before your spaghetti thoughts are lubricated by inward breath and untangle themselves, there's a deafening din that will put the entire Gauteng vuvuzela orchestra to shame.

Oh, the voices. Oh, the thinks that one thinks. The rattle and shout of criticising schoolteachers, we-know-better aunts and uncles, parents who in their loving blindness seemed to be pointing you down strange and nonsensical paths of self-regard. All the pieces of crud that you sucked up as a 7 year old, in all your eager porousness and wanting to be a real functioning member of the world. You took it all on, and somehow, somewhere, the cracked logic still runs through your psyche like faultlines.

Its been a noisy old week in this head of mine.

Because as most of you have figured out by now, living a life of authentic integrity, allowing your own voice to be heard, if not by everyone then at least by you, is the hardest dem task we have appointed ourselves. Most of us find it far easier to live the path we think our tribe / parents / zookeepers want us to live. And often that is not an explicit path at all, its just the way a whole lot of information fell into the vaccuum and was picked up and rearranged by the child wanting to please, wanting to be part of the pack, learning how to belong. This is how I am supposed to be. This is how they will love me. Most of us simply find it too difficult to listen to what the other path might be, to do as Joseph Campbell advises and follow your bliss. Or even figure out what that bliss might be.

Some of these crusty old imprints are obvious, and can be dealt with the old fashioned way, same as how you deal with cranky beasts such as dragons: stare them down, point at something on the wall behind them and when they turn around, grab the treasure and leg it. Others are sneakier, and wrap themselves around your lungs when you're not looking.

Yip, its been a noisy old week in this head of mine. A week of protest and name-calling. A week where Ms Serotonin took a sudden holiday and Mr Calvin wagged his worm-eaten finger at me.

You can't make a living from being an artist. That's not a real job. You need something to fall back on. To be a contributing member of society. Don't you have a responsibility to your family / community? To the economy? Shouldn't you be pulling your weight?

It is a real job, dammit!

It must be nice to spend all day doing creative things, I've had people say to me. It must be nice to be able to do what you want all day. Yeah. Its great. Aaaalll day, I'm doing that lovely arty farty stuff. I especially love the hours spent in the bank trying to convince paperclip pushers that I am in fact an ordinary citizen with a viable income, even though I don't have an actual salary slip. And sitting in long meetings that I can't invoice for, planning projects that have a 40% chance of coming off the ground. People with jobs love meetings, coz it keeps them away from their desks and their actual work. People who work for themselves prefer to keep these meetings short and snappy. You're giving me the job? Great. Can I have 40% of the budget up front? Thanks. Toodle-loo. Um, I'm not sure its necessary to have another meeting. It did take me an hour to get here. Climate change, you know. hahah. We can do the rest by email, seriously.

Live by the word, die by the word. Pay by the word
Writers /artists do what they do for the love of it, you see. Nothing else. Somehow, the logic goes that if you are doing something meaningful to you, that should be reward enough, and you can make do with less than those engaged with real commercial enterprise. Interesting that. Does it follow that if you are getting paid well your work is not meaningful? Hmm.

I wish there was an inversion we could do on our word count invoicing. I can do you a 2000 word article, no problem. But if you want 500 words, its going to take me that much longer. Is that so hard to understand? Come on, Writers guilds, isn't this a good plan?

"Remember," she said darkly, "all wealth comes from the earth."


And then lastly, that unhelpful bit of myth about the creative temperament: artists and creative people are depressive. Prone to long bouts of alcoholic binge, followed by feverish bursts of activity followed by 'mooning about for days.' We are forgetful and can't be trusted to pay the bills. We commit suicide and adultery and drink too much and do our best work during bouts of insanity. We are dangerous to ourselves. Electro shock therapy has helped some.

I guess I may be proving that stereotype nicely round about now, but honestly, where did it come from, this prickly bit of pigeonholing? Those bloody Romantics have a lot to answer for. Does this have to be my sentence? Why do we buy into this, what does it serve us? Is it ok with you if I just have a quietly productive life, stable moods and a secure income? Or won't you take my work seriously if I'm not a raging depressive eccentric?

Don't answer that.

Anyway, if we are prone to such things? Is it too much to understand that this has less to do with some artistic gene and more to do with the fact that its a hurty world out there and those of us who are good at our jobs are a little sensitive. Born without a skin, the mess of the world gets in. We are the dying canaries in the coal mine, people. And we say, Remember: all wealth comes from the earth.

As the big man said,
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and watch?

Right, I'm off to hunt down some endorphins. I believe if you swim with them they heal all your pain.


Shiny said...

I am sending lots of Endor Fins from here. I've heard that myth about them too. It may just have been in a dream though. Or an alcohol-induced haze. Just in case it's true though, here are some...

Phhhffftttt (that's the sound of Endor Fins. I think.)


P.S. I am always astounded by your beautiful writing. Even when you're a little pissed off and hurty.

Angela said...

Me too, Tam, and I apologize. For being an aunt and parent and a forlorn girl (before) myself. Actually, it takes any feeling or thinking person (at least) till the age of forty to climb out of this abyss. Wait for it, it will happen. You`ll suddenly see the stars.
We all got these words, the well-meaning, the ignorance, the advice which did not fit us. I know your parents meant well, they loved you. But they were themselves, not you. How could they know you? It is your (our) task to grow above your tribe and first chakra. It hurts, and everyone has extra difficulties, there is no one without (some ignore it all and never grow). But I tell you, it`s worth it! As soon as you accept yourself as who you are (who am I, anyway, is of course the hardest one), you start breathing freely. And you can forgive, and understand. And truly let go, and give back. Then the demon-wrestling can be left behind you.
Believe me. Not long anymore.

fush and chips said...

"I see too much and too deep"
- Camus

Good tangly mess of a blog.

Miranda said...

Morbes = brilliant writing. Case in point m'dear. I hear you though, I hear ya

Val said...

a familiar rant SO eloquently put!! love it. endor fins - can one wear them on one's head- or shoulders like pips?? haha. i have heard you can swim with them too...maybe like waterwings?
awesome Tam x

tam said...

Thanks Shiny, sweet praise, much needed. A big vitamin B boost seems to have helped somewhat.

Yes, Geli, I get what you mean I really do, its just been a frustrating week or two.

Thanks Mr Jones.

Mo I do like the phrase 'the morbes'. it even sounds like the noise in your head when Sarah Tonin leaves the building. But oddly, if you say 'Ive got the morbes' often enough its hard to take them too seriously.

Val, I think I should probably refrain from wearing inflatable waterwings on my head and claiming that its part of a healing programme... people are so closed minded these days.

Val said...

the very idea is working for me today :-)