I thought that now would be a good time for me to explore, philosophically and spiritually, at least, barriers toward utilizing the skill I have, artistically. As many of you know, I’m currently in a Master’s program in Library Science which enables me to use the analytic, text- and logic-driven side of my mind; but this is largely because I am not sure that something like Graphic Design is my best bet, when it comes to choice of occupation.
Behind that, lies a complex web of inhibitions, motivations, and just general lack of understanding as to why I have the abilities I do and what my responsibilities are as a wielder of my skills. (That, and: Graphic Design and Web Design don’t pay as much as I’d like, and as a person with a disability, I need a stable job both for health benefits and to give me the structure I internally lack.)
In comparison to this, Library work…does partake of the same ethics and values, but also…would seem to drastically reduce my options. At this point, I find myself wondering whether my ethics and values — the ones relating to money and economics, primarily, but also relating to social-conservative norms which I fear being judged by — are unduly limiting me from work I might actually enjoy. The reason I began to question this was, oddly enough, considering going into business, and realizing that if I might consider doing it for myself, maybe not all private businesses are as evil as I have seen them characterized.
I’ve made some notes to myself here which I’ll be referring back to regularly over the course of this writing: chances are that I’ll delete them before I post this, but I need something to remind me of what I actually wanted to write about.
In any case, I do have a good sense of aesthetics, apparently. I can draw, I can work in three dimensions with things like ceramics and metal; I am beginning to see that I can paint, as my drawing works its way out into the desire to use large blocks and swaths of mixable color, in addition to the freedom of markmaking enabled by multiple brushes (as versus the small points of contact, relatively limited color blendability, and graininess I experience with things like colored pencils or crayons). I haven’t gotten deeply into painting yet, however…and I’m not entirely sure what’s behind it. I think it may be the deeper question of “what to paint?” or, “why paint?” It does require some funds to start with, to be sure: but I have a good deal of this material and equipment already.
Maybe I need to go back to drawing: something that can be smaller, more contained, and more structured; and then when it feels appropriate, move into larger format and color work.
Maybe the problem is found more along the lines of not knowing why I’m doing what I’m doing. This is the same thing which stopped me from weight training to the point of appearing to be a lightweight bodybuilder…I asked myself why I was doing it. I actually still don’t know why I like to be buff; I just do.
But this question, on both counts, didn’t bother me for years — then, maybe, I got…sentient?
I was able to reflect on why I was doing what I was doing, but I wasn’t able to answer the question, either through lack of sufficient information, or through lack of processing capability. I would lean against the latter, except for the fact that, looking back upon myself in my twenties, I realize in my mid-thirties that I had substantial cognitive impairments on top of my other troubles, which I was unaware of until about ten years into treatment.
And yes, it is possible that I’m attracted to art because neurodiversity is not looked down upon in the field. As, with Librarianship, being female is not looked down upon (by one’s peers, at least). I’ve tried to strategically orient myself towards places where I won’t have to worry about certain of my most vulnerable statuses.
As well: art, writing, and librarianship are all spaces which (ideally, at least) value, and to some degree depend upon, freedom of expression. This is important to me for more than one reason. Having run across some people who are more militarily Leftist than myself, I can see that it actually is important to be able to speak one’s mind without fear of emotional or physical or economic harm befalling oneself just because one dared to speak something someone else didn’t agree with. (This maxim is not true of all Leftist enclaves.)
However, there is a difference between saying something someone else doesn’t like, and encouraging prejudice and harm towards members of groups which one (usually) does not belong to, or from which one separates oneself. This is called hate speech; which, in my opinion, does not deserve a platform in an egalitarian, democratic society, or in a society which aspires to the same. But that’s my opinion. You don’t have to agree with me. Nor am I speaking from a position of authority because of my professional aspirations. I’m just speaking as a human.
In any case…
I started learning to draw at about 14 years of age. Why? I can no longer remember, but I know it had to do with art books coming out of Japan, in relation to manga and anime. I probably just thought it was “cool,” (whatever that means?) and wanted to do it, too. I probably didn’t think in-depth about it, at the time, though now I know that my motivations probably related:
- to pride in cultural heritage;
- to being awed by work which came out of a society different than my own; and,
- to an acknowledgment of gender variation, at the time, condemned in my own society.
On top of this was my first exposure to a language very different from English, which to me was fascinating, both in its beauty and encoding.
It became apparent that I was picking up skills in drawing fairly quickly, and I was encouraged on in this, whenever I created something which advanced visibly from my last work.
For a fourteen-year-old, this is great; but what it does is lay a foundation for future work. It’s hard to continue on in fourteen-year-old mode, indefinitely — at least in my case, I eventually stopped growing, and became bored. This is when I stopped drawing. Sometime later — recorded on this blog, in fact — I became re-interested in creating a graphic novel (see the link there between sequential art initially inspiring my own work, and it coming up again so many years post-graduation with my Creative Writing degree?), but I didn’t know if I even still liked to draw.
I am leaving out some information here, I just realized: I had tried to create sequential art (that is, a comic) as a youth, including many pages (multiple pads) of artwork. This eventually led me to start working with word-processing, as I could write by hand faster than I could draw, but I could type faster than I could write by hand — and at the time, I was having racing thoughts (though I didn’t recognize them as such).
I’m fairly certain that my obsession over my first “novel” project was what encouraged me to learn to touch-type, and to gain in speed at it. At this point, if I already have the content written out, I can type around 74 words per minute — if I’m recalling right. Of course, though, word-processing from handwritten copy doesn’t happen that often: more often, my written work is born-digital, though I have been seeing the benefits of working in hard copy, recently.
But even this: this doesn’t carry the same weight for me that my artistic and aesthetic skills, do. I don’t look at my wpm speed and say, “wow, I really have a gift with my typing speed, and because of my speed and accuracy which comes from an unknown source, I have a responsibility to use my gift for the betterment of the world.” It’s just not mystified in the sense that my skill at art, is.
Maybe it’s because I don’t understand how or why I even have any skill at art.
And, I mean, I know it isn’t rational…I’m very aware of that. But parts of human life, aren’t rational; and that doesn’t mean that the irrational is worthless. It just means that it doesn’t make sense, and the more we can acknowledge that it doesn’t make sense and that it still has some kind of value (because we are not wholly rational beings to begin with, nor do we ever have enough information to draw satisfactory conclusions about anything)…it seems we would make some headway, then. (The problems seem to come in when one group’s irrational value system overpowers another’s, in lack of individual consent…but that’s politics.)
Of course, it probably doesn’t help that in my last severe bout of illness, I gave myself a life position of “Creator” (I had been reading Nietzsche…probably anyone who has read Nietzsche knows what I’m talking about) in order to give some meaning and direction to my life, and that to the end of keeping myself alive.
I haven’t always kept a record of my bouts, so I really can’t remember how many I’ve had, or at what time in my life they struck. What I do know is that I’m lucky not to have ever given in to the urge to end my own life. Up against the wall like that, I can utilize my creativity to invent reasons to survive, even if they don’t make sense…and I don’t think any person who would matter to me would think less of me for it.
This “job position” was taken up in light of the fact that at the time, I was in a very spiritual mindset. My problem is that I can get so far into the spirituality that I lose contact with this world, and any desire to keep going, in this world. Over the years, I’ve had at least several…I suppose they can best be called “muses”.
This set of circumstances — particularly, living at times on the edge of death, and also perceiving beings around me who are trying to help me and keep me alive — lends an ethereal flavor to my work, both in writing and in art. I don’t suggest anyone try this method of inspiration — it’s too dangerous to keep up when you don’t know what you’re doing (I have 20 years of outside assistance, from multiple sources, helping me keep a foot in this world). And then, there is the fact that when this is the way you have worked, it can be more difficult to write, or draw, or create, when you’re in a period of relative health.
I’ve heard that my position is not an unusual one to be in: that is, it’s common for people who have my illness and who are on medications like mine, to lose contact with their creativity while medicated. (I don’t think this was a side effect I was warned about, either.) However, I can do things now — particularly, where it comes to functioning in the world — which were more difficult for me previously. In light of this, it’s hard to think of going back off of the medications to regain the other kind of easy functionality I had, where it comes to creativity.
So we have a set of circumstances, as such:
- I have artistic skills (that is, I’m apparently “gifted”)
- I want to utilize my artistic skills (my “gift”)
- in order to give myself a reason to survive
- I have created a requirement for myself to utilize my artistic skills for “good,” in light of the spiritual nature I have encountered them within
- This narrows the acceptable range of expression I can perform
- (Which runs against the idea of freedom of expression)
- Therefore I become blocked
- because of my self-requirement of creating “good”
- when neither the world nor experience are all good
- And I wonder if this requirement is a cop-out because I’m scared to utilize my skills because I don’t understand them, they show up most vibrantly when I am ill, and they become severely more important when I am closer to death.
I could utilize my skills for something like Industrial Design or Graphic Design, but putting money first goes against my ethics.
I could utilize my skills to produce Fine Jewelry, but the gold industry is particularly harmful to the Earth.
I could illustrate graphic novels, but I fear the emotional depths I would need to tap as an illustrator of drama.
I could write novels, but I fear tapping what is inside me right now (I do not control it, and I have had a longstanding question as to whether what is in there actually is “good,” when I want to put out “good” — an issue that I haven’t seen many others face).
What is “good?” A question for another time, perhaps?
A…good…question for another time…