Friday, August 19, 2011

Don't Be Afraid to be UN-lovely

When we create from the source, not from a place of accepted rules, we are truly being authentic.

Has someone ever told you that your poem or painting is “just lovely,” when clearly you know that, by convention, it is most certainly NOT lovely, or pretty or pleasing? Did you think to yourself, this person just does not understand my creative aesthetic?

I recently shared a poem with friends that was accepted for publication. It was a different kind of journal to be sure, and I chose a poem from my repertoire that I knew would be a good match for the themes they usually publish. After sending out the poem, I received kind words of congratulation, as well as a few neutral comments: “I liked your poem,” and “it was interesting.” Then there was the “it was lovely” comment. This is someone I’ve only been friends with for a couple of years, and she isn’t a writer or an artist. This doesn’t mean that non-creatives are unable to be open-minded. I know plenty of creative engineers. OK, I know one creative engineer who writes music. That’s another blog entry.

I wrote back to this friend, who is truly nice and kind, to tell her that no, my poem was not lovely, but the magazine liked it enough to publish it, and it captured a moment. I think I need to sit down over a cup of coffee with her and explain that writers and artists sometimes capture a moment of intense emotion through art, and then that moment is gone. It doesn’t mean that you live in that moment ~ that anguish is your permanent emotional state. Of course, maybe it is, in some cases. I enjoy exploring human emotion and placing my fictional speakers in different situations to see what happens.

When I start the journey of a poem, I don’t always know where I’m going. I might start with an image, a state of mind, a setting, or a first line that came to me just as I was falling asleep. If I were writing a novel, I would probably map things out a bit with bubble ideas and mind maps, but for my poetry, I like to glide on a thought and ride it out like a wave. I have no surfer training, mind you, and I might get tumbled in the waves, with gritty sand in my bathing suit that itches for days. Nice image, huh? You could write a poem about that!

Do not back away from the uncomfortable. Live with it – breathe in the awkward moment, the painful, the bitter ~ the bittersweet chocolate of life. If you can’t be fearless in your art, where can you be? The path not taken will lead to people who tell you in a rather mild voice, “that poem was lovely,” with a glance to the sky that says they don’t quite know what to say. Brush it off, pull up your sleeves and dig in, because the hard work, the real work of creation, has just begun. You need to go under in order to reach up. Light and dark live side by side, and your angel’s wings poem will have even more VERITAS if you know how to explore shadows as well.

The next time someone says “lovely” in reference to your poem, sculpture, canvas or song lyrics about why grief feels like “a wet, woolen mitten that constricts and pulls you down to empty caverns,” nod your head demurely, say thank you, and then keep creating. Keep them guessing. Keep them thinking. Someone has to wade through otherness with a smile. Let it be you!

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2011

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