Friday, May 25, 2012

Big Questions. Any answers?

A Girl Writing
by Henriette Browne, 1829-1901

The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well. Horace Walpole.

I really identify with this quote. But I'd have to add two things interest me profoundly. However, the real question for me is: Why am I interested in the things I am interested in?

I have long been interested in writing stories. But why am I interested in writing at all? Why, one day, when my daughter was an adolescent, did I decide to take on writing as a serious venture? And now, twenty-five years and ten books later, I am still writing.

Being an introverted kid, I lived a great deal of time in my imagination, making up places and stories that only I got to live in - creating parallel worlds for myself, really. It relieved anxieties. It took away my fears, made me brave. And it was fun. So, is it perhaps a mix of interest, curiosity, fear, and fantasy that made me interested in expressing myself through writing?

There is a scientific theory that being sad makes us more creative. I'd like to get into that, but I'd be way over my head. It's now being tested in brain studies. They can have my brain when I'm through with it. But where creativity comes from in the first place is something I cannot answer.

I am also an artist. Did I blunder into a fine arts degree because it was the only thing I was consistently praised for in school? Is it that simple? I think, for myself, I was mainly interested in the fact that I could pick up a pencil and actually draw something that was a fair representation of what I was seeing. Pretty simple really. And it became of deep interest to me..

We all, I suspect - have interests that, if nurtured could grow and develop into something creative - might even be eventually called "talent". I taught young people art, and adults writing, for years - and I saw huge "talent" wasted by laziness and a lack of deep interest.

Turning an interest into something truly creative only works if there is drive and enough dogged perseverance to learn, stretch, grow and take risks.  All art involves craft, after all. It's the profound need for some of us to follow our interests that makes the difference: and not being afraid to jump into the deep end, to make mistakes, test ourselves - and trust that, in time, skills and a deeper meaning will come.

It's having the compulsion to develop our interests into something uniquely "us" that is a huge part of changing our passions into creative creatures that take on a living breathing life of their own, whether it is music, art or writing.

So, what drives some of us to continue to practice and generate our more creative interests - no matter what other people think? I think, for some of us, these enthusiasms for the things that absorb us actually feed something deep inside us that we crave; perhaps a growing sense of self during the act of creation; and as we use all of our skills, interests, curiosities and creativity to execute a vision that is ours alone, we also find ourselves coming closer and closer to finding out that, perhaps, we are actually capable of doing things that will amaze even ourselves.

But where did these interests come from that have captivated me for so long? And why am I driven to continue to invest in them? I really have no idea... but maybe I don't need the answer after all.


Humpty Dumpty said...

I love the painting you posted. It is beautiful!

I think creative talent has something to do with genetics. That creative spark is a part of our make-up. We can no more turn off that ability than we can stop breathing. I'm sure that, somewhere in your family's history, someone was an artist and someone had the writer's gene.

I can see where my talents came from - my father was an artist, my grandmother always wanted to be a writer/journalist and was thrilled when I began writing. She had never had the time. Her husband died when her three girls (including my Mom) were in their teens. She entered the workforce for the first time just so she could put food on the table. Grandpa didn't have any insurance or a will and the house reverted to the girls, not to her. I'm sure if she'd had the luxury of honing her craft, she would have been an amazing writer. :)

- Susan (from mywithershins)

Margaret Buffie said...

I love that painting, too! I like her work a lot.

I also, like you, think our creative talent can, in part, come from our genes. Some receive this gift as part of their genetic make-up. What they do with it is all important. How one is brought up plays a part in it for some people, too. My immediate family did not seem to have this drive. I know that one of my ancestors in the 18th C was a weaver (Germany). I also know that a an "English" great-uncle of mine was an artist of sorts - he was a botanist - and did water colours. My dad worked as a lithographer here in Winnipeg for Bulman Brothers and worked with colour a lot, but did not do "art" at all away from work. So, other than that I don't know of anyone else in the past who was a writer or an artist in my family - but perhaps I'll find out one day. I wish I did know this!
As for writing, my youngest sister Erna and I are both writers. She is also a doc film maker. Before that - no published writers - or even amateur writers. So I'm really not sure where this all comes from in me - or Erna. I knew people who grew up in artistic homes - musical parents etc or artists like your dad; who seemed to naturally accept they could also try these forms of expression - and often enjoyed it, but it was surprising how few actually took it "on" for the rest of their lives. It's of great interest to me where "inner drive" to do it comes from. But you are sure right when you say we can't turn that ability off!
I wish your grandmother had been able to fulfill her dream to write. My mom was also left a young widow of 39 with 4 girls. We believe my dad's cancer came from the toxic paints and chemicals he worked with every day. Being a widow so young changed everything for my mother.

Deniz Bevan said...

Great post! I find it harder to answer for myself as I'm not an artist at all, but have been writing since first grade. Yet what made me write that first story? And why have I been compelled to continue all these years? If only I could go back and ask my young self!

Margaret Buffie said...

I honestly doubt that our young selves would have an answer, don't you? It's like the "call of the wild" -- that makes it seem inevitable that some of us will be writers or take on other forms of expression through an art form. It's just inside some people to create something - and to keep striving to express it in different ways all the time. How this happens is what really interests me. But answers? I don't have any for all my wondering!! But it is a joy to be able to do it freely.

Deniz Bevan said...

I agree, Margaret, it certainly is a joy! I sometimes wonder what people with no creative outlets *do*, and then I feel guilty for wondering and so lucky that I do have this innate ability/need/way of expressing myself.

Melodye said...

I wish I could talk face-to-face with you someday about the parallel worlds you created when you were younger. I wonder if we ever crossed paths on those solo journeys. Maybe that's why we connected in a flash when we "met" in cyberspace. Perhaps that's why we feel like kindreds now.

My creative self asks more questions than I could possibly answer in a single lifetime. But it's fun to contemplate the possibilities, and I oftentimes wonder if those lingering "what ifs" find their way into my writing/photography. :)

Margaret Buffie said...

Thanks so much, Melodye. I think the desire to answer the "whys" and "what ifs" is what drives me a great deal - in all aspects of inner and outer life that may cover - in my art and my writing. It is the search itself, not so much the answers that are the main thing for me. Because the search can take us off onto other trails that we would never have thought of taking a chance on before, and sometimes they lead to painful places and sometimes to safe harbours where we can "think" and define who we are. Kindred spirits. Two words that mean a lot....