Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just Call Me Grandma

How I wish this was a scratch-n-sniff photo!

Recently, my husband and a friend and I had a discussion about our compulsion toward creative endeavors.  The other two agreed that they were miserable if they did their art, and miserable if they didn't do their art.  There seemed no happiness in creating for them, even though it was so necessary.  I don't remember all that I said then, but I do remember thinking that their damned-either-way situation was wrong somehow.

This was about the time I returned to writing with not a vengeance but a determination to enjoy it.   I had trod their murky waters and found a commitment to allowing myself to enjoy what I couldn't seem to escape doing. It just seemed logical. I'm still practicing it, even when reminders are necessary.

Regardless of my perky decision being made (and shared that day actually--maybe I started that talk, now that I think about it), I reflected on the conversation later. It led me to a decision that I shared with them and now share here, in the written word, where it becomes more real:  I've decided to be a folk writer.

I don't mean that I've decided to write folk tales.  I mean that I choose to be a writer like Grandma Moses was a painter.  I'm opting, for now, to be an untrained, all-natural, whatever-God-gave-me sort of writer.

Someday I might want to polish up my (Is it really there?) talent, consult with experts, and study up on the learned ways of this craft.  At some point, I may be interested in how to write really, technically well.  For now, I would rather just let 'er rip in my own fashion, even if the perspective is skewed and the scale a bit off.  I need play in my life, and I'm giving it to myself in words.

As I understand it, since ironically I'm not a fan, folk art is admired for its authenticity, its innocence and freshness, its lack of erudition and self-conscious effort.  Folk artists have not eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil technique.  They are still residents of the garden of naive production.  That sounds like the playground I need right now.

After all, there are plenty of other areas where self-analysis and performance evaluation are necessary, like my job, where accountability is understandable. There I must be striving for constant improvement and, frankly, proving that I'm worth my pay.  I have no problem with those requirements.  Those are the grown-up-world realities with which I'll happily comply and feel proud of myself for being able to meet.

Here, though, I want to be unhindered and exploratory.  Here I want to become like a child again, free of comparison paralysis and fear.  This I want to be my sandbox, my coloring book, my chest of blocks that I can arrange any way I want for sheer delight.  As I wrote one morning in my recently-reviewed journal, I want to create "like a kid high on Crayola stink."  I'm giving myself back my innocence.

The irony is that this childish innocence is chosen in quite an adult fashion, with full knowledge that it's opposite exists, which I think makes it a holy choice.  Maybe it's one way to live out a possible interpretation of Jesus' admonition to "become like a little child."  I'm pretty sure that producing happily and feeling like a fully realized being are qualities of my heaven, the place to which he said such return to innocence would gain us admittance.

I choose to stay a wise child on the page in the same way that I choose to trust even though I'm well aware that I can be hurt, to see the good in the world when I know full well that evil lurks, to enjoy living even though I know I will die, and to risk despite knowing that I can fail.  

If deciding to be child-like means that I can hold my head up when I say that I write, or that I do anything else for that matter, rather than wanting to cast my eyes down and hide behind my elbows, then I'm happy with my choice.  It means that I'm not trying to be perfect anymore, which was killing me, but just myself, honoring the way I was made, rediscovering humble first-grade pride, which comes not from feeling better than anyone else, but from making no comparison at all.

I'm done with monitoring stats and craving comments. I'm through deciding every word consciously. I'm just here for the fun, the tinkering, the play.  I'm here to be instinctual, to birth what I feel moving inside me, to be true to my God-given desires without self-serving ambition.

I'm almost ready to share what I do here confidently with others, but not to create a platform or to market myself or to be famous.  I'm quite sure those worldly grown-up successes aren't part of my mission on this earth.  

My husband told me this week that I'm high minded, and I agree that I am.  I like noble purposes and warm, fuzzy goals.  I'm after the heart and soul of the writing that is mine to do, not the nuts and bolts of polished prose.  I'd much rather have genuine passion with imperfections than flawless posturing that garners hits.

There's another way I'd like to be like Grandma Moses.  I read somewhere years ago a quote from her about how to end a life.  I don't remember it exactly, but it involved the dusting off of hands as after a good day's work.  Now that's a simple measure of success and peace I can embrace--leaving this world satisfied, knowing you did some good. I can't imagine a greater achievement.

I don't know how I'll feel at the end of my life, but satisfied and confident that I did a good thing is how I feel when I'm done writing for the evening, now that I've regained my innocence.  That's enough reason to stay in the garden by choice.

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