“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
What an important quote. Outside of the time period in which Picasso lived and that his reference to “he” seems somewhat misogynist (as we all know there were many “she’s” during Picasso’s reign creating beautiful art and that one of his greatest mentors and facilitators was Gertrude Stein); still his words are so incredibly relevant and important for those of us who are artists and writers and spend our days creating. As grateful as we all are to everyone who spins the web, makes the wheels turn and creates a society for the rest of us to live in; the life of an artist is difficult. We are often seen as unfocused, philanderers, and that what we do is considered a “hobby”.
Nothing could be further from the truth and I say that with complete confidence. It is my opinion that if someone is going to speak their truth about a particular subject matter than they must have the experience to substantiate their declaration. Their truth may not be everyone else’s truth but if their personal experience has an affirmative quality to their statements and their experience corroborates on some level their opinion than I feel that there is substance to what they are saying. So here I go……
I always knew I was a writer, I always knew it was my destiny, I just knew and my family knew as well. From the moment I could read and write I was putting pen to paper and creating fantastic stories about my dolls, my backyard, cartoon characters, and my obvious physical interactions. More importantly I was excavating visions I had of the world around me that had nothing to do with things that were in my daily life; ideas, revelations and imagery that I was compelled to write about. I had no idea where they came from but I just wrote and wrote and wrote. I was a Little Creator and as I journeyed up the ranks of our esteemed western educational hierarchy, I excelled but spent my quiet alone time writing my wondrous poetry and stories. I was definitively the main attraction at my Italian’s families numerous gatherings as I was beckoned to tell my tales or act out one my imaginative dramas.
As the years passed my “art”, my gift, my beautiful writing that I loved so much was reduced to sending the best birthday cards, writing little passages to friends and framing them and writing all my words and thoughts in countless diaries. The realities of life engulfed me and I eventually quieted that writing voice inside me, because after all, it was just a hobby. I went on to college and acquired my Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English and then went on to Law School in Boston. I remember sitting in Property Law bored out of my mind, craving Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dostoyevsky. I was frustrated and confused and wanted to write but I continued to do what I felt the world expected of me and my “hobby” sat on a shelf staring at me like a long lost relative.
During my numerous years in corporate America, I would return to my craft from time to time as there were compelling moments where I just had to. It felt like I had no choice, I was working 10 hour days doing other “stuff” but what resonated with me had nothing to do with my daily job or the cubicle I did the other “stuff” in.
When I look back there is a poignant moment that stands out for me. I was living in Manhattan, returning from an arduous day at my office. I was sitting at a red light on Madison Avenue in a cab chomping at the bit to get out of my suit (uniform) and get home when I glanced to my right and saw an elderly woman waiting to cross the street. It was in this instance I knew who I was and it had nothing to do with an office or a corporation. I was a writer. I was a creator and it was choiceless.
When I looked at this woman waiting to cross Madison Avenue, I was consumed with her and what she stood for in this world. I observed intently her wrinkled hose and the way it held up her ankles and I saw every bit of angst that fell on her brow and noticed how sad she looked as she held tightly onto her iron shopping basket filled with empty plastic bottles. I wondered where she was going and what her life was like. My cab crossed the street and she was gone but I was totally unsettled and could not get home quick enough to write about her.
It has taken a longtime for my “hobby” to meet up with me and now I get it……I totally get it and I am now spending my life to make sure the little people of the world, get it. There has never been another choice for me other than to be an artist, a writer, but I did not listen. I fought against it and listened to the noise the outside world put on me, I did. But when you are an artist, when you are a writer, when you are a creator on any level…….it is your responsibility to take that talent, own it, cultivate it and become the very thing you are supposed to be. You have no other choice.
In 2015, I entered a literary non-fiction contest for the infamous Dan’s Papers Magazine (a wonderful and fun Hampton’s magazine that I have had the privilege of writing numerous articles for). I did not win (lol), but I did not mind at all as my attendance at East Hampton’s Guild Hall on awards night gave me so much more. In one sentence I was affirmed. The key note speaker that evening was acclaimed novelist and journalist Tom Wolfe. He opened his speech with this “What we do is choiceless. We are driven as artists. What we do comes from somewhere else.”
I will never forget that moment and how affirmed I felt……….