Compliments and Criticism

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(Or, “The Artist As A Starving Little Child”)

I think about this a lot. And by “a lot”, I really mean frequently. Performing and creating seem to be the only disciplines where you need kudos to carry on. I guess “need” is a strong word. You could get up there and sing an operatic solo and then dance your heart out, hear crickets, and continue onward with your life. But the goal is, in some way, to please and receive praise. You don’t really catch a CPA standing there after a dashing tax deduction waiting for the slow clap to begin… Not that all humans, as fairly basic animals, don’t want to be appreciated, but seems that the artist (and for the purposes of our discussion all singers, dancers, actors, performers, musicians, and makers of things will be called artists) is the eternal inner child standing up and saying “Look what I can do!”

Not all of us had crappy childhoods. Some artists come from loving homes with 2 supportive parents, and no history of abuse or neglect to speak of. So I cannot say definitively that it’s “Daddy Issues” that make us seek praise. Some artists are compelled by a force inside to speak, at all costs. I know that for myself, a life without a creative outlet is no life I want to live. I have to make things. I have an opinion to express. When I see materials, I start to think about how they go together and what they could become. 

But at the end of the day, you’d like someone to want to have your artwork (most times), or come to your play, or read your book. You are not doing this as a solo, masturbatory, experience. I want you to see what I have created. Is it that I want you to understand me? Is it that I want you to have the same thoughts and feelings that I do at a given time? Sometimes, honestly, I just want to feel like it’s worth it. I guess for the working artists, the ones that get paid for the services, or see more direct results, maybe this isn’t so much of a gaping maw. I don’t get paid. Most of anything that I’ve made that has left my hands and ended up in another’s has been a gift. Recently, I can say I’ve sold a little bit of what I’ve made, but it won’t replace my day job any time soon. I want to feel appreciated. 

Speaking solely for myself, I know that my insecurities are the Sarlacc Pit waiting to devour me. I need to be told I’m pretty, so to speak. I see so many amazing, talented people. People that can paint photo realistic portraits. People with amazing, brilliant minds that come up with incredible concepts that blow me away. I never see myself in that league. I have photography that’s won awards, I’ve won places in shows. I am worthwhile, and I have to remind myself of that constantly. I have to tell myself that the inner voice is comparing apples to oranges, and the only thing I need to be concerned with is doing the best possible work I can do on any project at any given time. No one else can create what comes from my hands. 

The other side of this coin is the criticism. Now, I don’t want anyone to hear their voice in any of the words I’m going to say, so please try to remember that this is a generalization. I do remember compliments. I’ve taken certain ones to heart. But I also remember the criticism. Let’s also preface this by saying it’s healthy. No one is done growing and learning. You have to put on your big girl/boy/third-or-non gender pants and deal with it. Sometimes you have to look for it. If you never edited anything, ever, a lot of what you would produce would effectively be pretty shitty. But if you are a person with already admittedly pretty abysmal self esteem, that shit can spiral around your head and make you uncertain of every decision. And it can’t. Because those motherfucking decisions need to be fucking made, goddamn it. You can’t walk away from everything. There is no satisfaction, and no growth, from abandoning every attempt. It’s like always having sex, and never, ever having an orgasm, for either partner. Just a constant state of foreplay. I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to live, either. 

Even though it can feel like the whole process is a childish endeavor, I have to subscribe to the belief that there is a greater purpose to art. It has saved lives and moved nations. Its motivations are vast and elusive. Dissecting the Muse is probably a bad idea. Understanding yourself, and your purpose, can be helpful; but you should try not to be so unkind as to reduce the whole of your drive to a dysfunction. I hope to have a long, productive future of making things that may or may not sell, may or may not be appreciated, and may or may not be loved by anyone. Though I’ll still say, every girl wants to be told she’s pretty. 

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winter

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Somewhere inside I think I’ll always be that girl that walked into a post at the mall, because she was staring at her new shoes. 

This “winter” (“Polar Vortex”?, “bombogenesis”?, “nor’easter”?, whatever…) is giving everyone the blues. Let’s face it, it’s exhausting just to pile on the layers and trudge from point A to point B. This weather seems to sap the lifeblood out of me, until my only desires are to sit in the dark and watch movies until it’s time to sleep. 

But we find small pleasures to make the hours go by, until the sun comes out again. Last night I tried out another new nail polish: Feather Effects by Nails Inc. The texture is a bit scratchy, and I had to use 3 coats to get the density pictured on Sephora, but I think it would be a cute top coat on the right color.

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This morning, I knew the temperatures would be in the negative before I even checked the weather. I decided to pull out the knit socks for isolation. I think the sock website I got these from is now defunct. But I love these ones. Maybe they are intended to be thigh highs on a much thinner woman, but they make up for it by being the same color as the Granny from Muppet Babies.

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Then, of course, there are my new shoes…

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I’m also wearing a new sweater, and to go with the loose knit and oatmeal color I thought I’d wear the glass necklace my friend brought back from Italy for me and the big bangle earrings from the Culture Shop to go all earthy boho all over this day. 

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So life carries on. I’ll while away the dark hours making art, reading books, watching movies, finishing projects, biding time until we can all crawl out of our shells and get into some real shenanigans. Until then find someone cute and funny to snuggle up to, and indulge in the nerdy obsession of your choice, and we’ll meet each other in the virtual realm until we’re ready for concerts, and picnics, and goings on. Be safe and stay warm. 

5 Things

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Here in no particular order are the Top 5 Things I Promise Myself Constantly:

1. “I’m going to get up early tomorrow.”

Every night, I make the lofty plan that I will get up early the following morning. I set my alarm for anywhere up to a half an hour earlier than the time I actually have to get up. Sometimes I am too lazy to pack my lunch the night before. Other days, it’s a promise to go for a walk, eat breakfast before I leave, or a determination that I really don’t want to miss that morning bus.

This inevitably leads to me hitting snooze; past even the time that I would normally get up, on occasion. This despite my cats Pavlovian reaction to the sound of the alarm clock; waiting with big, alert, creepy, doe eyes for any sign of life (and therefore breakfast) from me.

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. I am not likely to become a morning person. When I am in a good place with my routine and my internal clock, I can wake up naturally somewhere between 9 and 10. Getting up earlier than 7 feels ungodly. Yes, I know that sounds privileged, but that’s just how it is.

This also relates to me being a night owl. At times, I don’t finish “decompressing” until 10 or 11, and all of a sudden I want to start something. This is generally a bad idea. Like last night, I wanted to try making yarn from old T shirts. I make one ball, but my scissors were unexpectedly dull and I didn’t complete my task until after 2, and then I just laid there for a while staring at the television.

2. “I’m going to exercise, in this form, tomorrow.”

Look, I know I’m out of shape. I’m a body positive individual and all. I won’t tell you that you aren’t okay the way you are. I don’t think anyone should punish themselves to attain what they are told is the ideal. But I know that I’m not the healthiest human. I don’t eat right, most of the time. And I regret nothing about that. I should be more active, though. An object at rest will stay at rest. The laziness just self-perpetuates.

I try to set goals. For a while I was going to the gym 3x a week. There was a time that I was trying to walk as much of the way back and forth to work as I felt comfortable with, going a little further each time. I have tried to set myself up for success. I moved my TV and DVD player into my bedroom, in the hopes of creating a “work out” space for myself where I won’t feel like an asshole doing work out videos. I have a hula hoop, yoga mat, roller skates, mitt for softball. I have the tools.

I accept that I am not a sporty girl. I will never be the “Sporty Spice” of the bunch. When I play cooperative team sports, I am that special kid that gives the team “heart”. I’m not a star player. Mostly, people are proud of me if I hit the ball. But I’m trying and I won’t give up trying.

3. “I’m going to bed early.”

This wraps around with the getting up early. I come from a lineage of night owls. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but both of my parents were always up past “grown up bed time” most nights. I honestly do swear that I do my best work in the wee hours. I wish I had science to back up my feelings on this, but I know consensus has my back, even if I don’t have numbers.

If I had my way, if I was independently wealthy, and could just “be an artist”, whatever that means. If I could “chase my muse”, I’m quite certain I would end up with vampire hours. There was a period of transient unemployment where, indeed, I often did not go to bed until the sun was rising.

I guess I feel like my quality of life would improve somehow if I got enough sleep. They say it helps with depression. I’ve often lived by the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead motto”, even though I know it does no good for me. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade my night time shenanigans for a million dollars. I have more endearing memories from staying up late, like a bad girl, than I ever do from being a responsible adult.

Still, over and over again, I try to do the “right thing”.

4. “I’m going to wear more dresses/skirts/tights/heels.”

I look at fashion stuff all the time. You’d never know it to look at me. I pull my hair back like IDGAF and wear no makeup 85% of my life. I plan outfits around wearing sneakers, most days. But, if you were to see my collection of makeup and heels, you would be amazed. I have eye shadow palettes, and primers, and tints, and things that only the Willy Wonka of Sephora could dream up. I have a box full of sample perfumes, like a fetish. I even have a small collection of outlandish false eyelashes that I can’t even put on by myself. When I was a little girl, I used to love to wear dresses, just to twirl around in them. What changed?

And I have tried. Oh yes, I have tried, to make the commitment to wearing more skirts, tights, heels, makeup. Then I remember why I don’t do these things everyday. Makeup takes time. Time I could sleep. Skirts feel like I am not wearing pants, and that feels weird. I walk like an man in high heels. I have all the grace of an elephant, try as I might. Then there is the working woman’s plight, where you wear different shoes to get to work, to put on the heels while you sit at your desk? This makes me think of Japanese foot binding in a really odd way. Like what is the point? And if I ever become one of those women in pantyhose with the sweat socks and sneakers during my work commute, I hearby give everyone express written permission to kidnap me and deprogram me Clockwork Orange style with episodes of Fashion Police. I get that beauty is pain, but it’s just not worth it. You don’t even want to get me started on tights. I think that the modern hipster has this romantic idea from the idolization of childhood that tights are awesome. I understand; they are warm, they are colorful, they hide days when you don’t want to shave. But you spend all day doing the “pulling up my tights” dance when you hope no one is looking. Or they do that “orthopedic sock” bunch action around your ankles.

Still, time will go by, as it is wont to do, and I will forget. I will think, “Oh won’t this be a super cute outfit. Why don’t I wear this more often?” And then in the morning, I’ll be on the bed with the legs in the air (not in the good way), shimmying and dancing into a pair of tights, or putting on a dress only to feel the flood of insecurity that makes me take it off and throw it in the back of the closet.

I respect and appreciate that these options exist. I am not on a crusade to end them. I am glad that I was born a cis gendered woman. If I want to be particularly feminine on a certain day, I have these items at the ready, and no one will look at me like I’ve grown 2 heads. I also don’t think you have to use these items to feel feminine. Maybe it’s a color or texture that does the trick for you. Maybe lace patterned combat boots make you feel like a girl, I’m perfectly okay with that.

I guess I just feel like it’s part of a me I want to be, and maybe that’s not accepting the me that I am. Although, that person is still want to change at a moments notice.

5. “I am going to work harder.”

Ah, “work”. For the sake of technicalities, let’s remove this concept from the idea of employment. I have this notion that I don’t do enough. I am not all the things. I have this voice that beats up on me . It says I should really do this or that. This voice makes lists that are insurmountable. It’s not that I don’t have the ability to do amazing things. I am in no way physically disabled, other than being short and fat. And I’m smart too. But I have my finger in too many pots. I’m in 35 places, in my head, at one time. Laser focus is not ever really going to happen for me.

Sometimes I think if anyone every knew me, all of me, and knew how many balls are up in the air in my head, juggling, they would be astonished. But I don’t really share everything with everyone, because I’m afraid I’d be boring after it was all out. So I let out a little at a time, like a balloon.

Sufficient to say, I think this little nagging voice is incorrect. Maybe I’m not perfect. Maybe I’m messy. Maybe I take a while to get things done. Maybe I have hundreds of unfinished projects, and ideas. But my heart is just going to keep on beating; that’s not going to change until it does and then none of it will matter. When you see me, usually, I am trying to be the best person I can, at any given time.

I guess this post lets the reader know that I am hard on myself. Too hard on myself, most days.

Still, I think people can relate. I think everyone probably has a similar narrative. Maybe not the same drives. Maybe you keep trying to quit smoking, or you intend to organize your photos. Maybe things like this are hardwired into the human DNA, because we wouldn’t go anywhere without goals. We’d all still be primates sitting around scratching our butts.

So in conclusion, I guess I’d say the lesson today is “All Things In Moderation” and “Don’t Stop Trying”. But really, keep on loving yourself and don’t lose sight of the real.

2014

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We made it. We survived through Christmas (or the selective winter holiday of your choice), and into a new year, another one. It was a nice holiday, for the most part. I saw friends and loved ones. I got things I asked for and surprises I was quite pleased with. And even if they faked it, my friends and family seemed generally pleased with the presents I got for them. I have many new shades of nail polish that I’m looking forward to using. New Year’s Eve this year was also a fun adventure. I managed to make it to 3 parties (including the one at my house) and a brief stint at a local bar, all with really great people that I’m really happy that I’ve gotten close to.

After Christmas, I have had the week of New Year’s off. I dreamed about this week for most of the month, creating lofty goals of things I’d like to accomplish. I have 4 days left. I’m thinking it’s time to make a list, cut the wheat from the chaff, and prioritize. I’ll try not to set myself up for disappointment. I still want the whole world. I want to be thinner, smarter, more creative. I want to  be all the things. I’ll have to learn not to “settle” for just being me but celebrate it.

At the end of 2012, I sent a request into the ether to find my voice, to find that defining trait that is a distinct signature to myself. I don’t know that I did. I might be closer. I am still stumbling and picking up pieces and then trying again.

Currently there is also a cable shaped hole in my heart. We’ve recently made a drastic reduction in our cable package and replaced it with Netflix and Hulu Plus. Everyone knows my addiction to pretty awful television. Now, I had high hopes this would encourage productivity, but so far it has lead to a lot of  binge watching of really weird shows.

I’m also going to try very, very hard to stick to a much more strict fiscal budget. I wish to slay the credit demon. But of course, that’s when a 2nd spring is beginning to worm out of my mattress and I send a silent devotion to St. Christopher with every trip on Pittsburgh roads with their post-snow salt craters, riding on my thinning tires with their slow leaks; still in “shock and awe” over this month’s heating bill. (I did make draft blockers for the doors with the legs of old jeans yesterday. Necessity is the mother of invention, and whatnot.)

And then moving forward… I wanted to stop by the blog and update on the things. There is still much I want to do, so perhaps I should get to them. Soon I’ll post more artwork, and more nail stuff. Maybe I’ll have news about being healthy and happy in the New Year. We’ll see what will be come of the newborn babe that is 2014.