I so badly want to be a person who can stay at home and write all day, and who can do art, and just be creative. I want to be a person who leaves a legacy to the world of amazing books, and art work, and thoughts, and all these amazing things. I want my children to know me through what I create for them, and for the world. But I seem to never be creating anything more than the thoughts in my head – and what good are they when they are held fast, trapped within this thick skull and mixed up among slimy grey matter?
I know instinctively that my ideas need to come out. That they need to spill forth onto one page or another. But somehow I have a million reasons why they can’t.
I think about the colouring that I do and think, “No, but I AM being creative. Colouring in is my creativity.” Well. Yes. It is. But it is inhibited by the lines someone else has drawn for me. I have ideas that have no lines around them. That could be free. That could soar. But won’t because, although the caged bird sings, she does not soar. And if she can’t soar, then only those who are close enough, and wise enough to listen will ever hear the wonderful things I have stored up inside me.
When I was a child, probably around five years old, I remember the moment playing amongst the long grass – more like uncut hay – with my toy ponies, and barbie dolls. For some reason, at that age, probably because someone had asked me that age old question, I was thinking about how I could contribute to the planet. My first thoughts were about how I should be an actress, and I stuck on this for the majority of my teenage years. That was what I was moving towards.
I was pretty good at acting too. I loved it, very much. I won the boys college award for performing arts, top in my year across both the boys and girls college for acting. I wowed people who thought I was worthless with my ability to portray a troubled girl who also acts Macbeth and becomes this wild girl who they aren’t sure has not actually gone crazy. I loved this role. It was my defining moment. I loved watching how the audience, though they had just laughed along with the play prior to mine, and giggled at some of the performances of the others in my group, got really drawn into my character when my monologue came up. When I was creeping towards the other characters with my knife angled towards their throats. When I growled my words to them with such venom it was hard to imagine I didn’t hate them all. That I didn’t believe that none of it was worth it. And when I screamed and released all the pain and frustration from deep within me, and slammed the knife down hard into what would have been my wrist except for the quick last minute removal of my arm. There was shock, and then relief when they saw the knife standing upright, wedged firmly in the table, swaying side to side. Not a pin could have been dropped that wouldn’t have been heard like a deafening gong being beaten.
Then I went to a different school. Point having been proven I signed up for performing arts again. But this time the “stars” had already been locked and loaded. Without a doubt, THOSE were the kids that could act. And my friend and I, who never took anything particularly seriously except the things most important to us, were never to be stars like those shining at the arses of the teachers who could no doubt take them somewhere. So when it came time to audition for roles in the school production “grease” I was interested in playing Sandy (of course) or Risso (also would have been perfect for me). I went to write my name up for the auditions, only to find that other than auditioning for the chorus, there were only about 5 audition slots for each main character. Hardly a fair talent search, but anyway. I missed out getting my name on there, and instead signed up for the chorus. As it turned out, they felt that my friend and I were not serious enough to be able to uphold the sanctity of the school production…. What you don’t know, you miss out on.
After this, I was so bummed. School finished shortly after. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I still felt like if I continued to study fine art I would begin to loathe painting and drawing, and I was so good at it, and enjoyed relaxing in this way that I didn’t want that to be the case. I considered graphic design, architecture design, all the designs. I considered taking some time out and travelling with my mate (this was one of the ones I was super keen on). Ultimately I decided to stay in Nelson and try to make a go of my relationship with my then boyfriend. I went to NMIT and studied fine arts. I did this for some time, but the relationship with my boyfriend was so toxic there was no way this could every have lasted. As much as we tried to make it work. As much as we held onto it.
Ultimately, I had no choice but to end the relationship. The only way I could end this fiery, passionate relationship without falling back into his arms was to one night up and leave. I dropped out of my arts program, which only had two more years to go, and was looking so promising for me. I moved to Wellington. I had no idea what I was going to do. This was my first time out of home.
When I moved to Wellington I had to grow up. I got a job, and then a different job, I ultimately ended up working in a bank. I enjoyed having some money. I enjoyed partying. I enjoyed the freedom. But I missed studying. Studying has ALWAYS been my kryptonite. I love to learn things. I love to be dreaming and moving towards something (despite never finishing). So I signed up to Victoria University, and since I didn’t know what I wanted to study I decided Art History could be my thing. I went along to talk to a tutor there about how a degree at a university works, and which programs I should take. Looking back the tutor was hasty, and didn’t sit long enough to really get to know me. To understand what might be right for me. I left there having signed up for Art History, Film arts, Theatre arts (okay options, except that it spread me across too many potential avenues and ultimately confused me), and psychology (as someone who doesn’t enjoy science, ever, this one was just set up to be a massive fail, and was).
I did my first year of the degree and then heard about Toi Whakaari. New Zealand’s premier dance and drama school. I thought, “THAT is where I belong”. I thought about it. But I was still SO bummed about not being invited to participate in the school’s final production that I didn’t believe I could act. It seemed that no one really believed I could do the whole acting thing, because anytime I told someone I wanted to go to New York and become an ACTRESS! They all just looked at me, laughed, told me to lose some weight, told me to make sure I had an open ended ticket home for when it turned to custard, told me all sorts of things that said “Susan, we do not believe in you. Take your head out of the clouds!” So with these thoughts running around my head I signed up for the design for stage and screen part of the school. I knew I would get into this, because apparently THAT is where my talent lies. And you know what?! I got in first try. Well that wasn’t as hard as people made out. Later I found out that it really IS as hard as people make out, but my work was that good.
During my time there though I started off with being really well encouraged. Told that I could do amazing things. That amazing things were definitely possible for me. But then in the second year, I’m not really sure what happened. I think I was too serious, and not into going out socialising as much as everyone else would have liked. I just wanted to be in this world. I wanted to be creating. I wanted all these things for myself, and I didn’t want distraction. The tutors pushed me, as they should. But I seemed to be getting nowhere. My work was becoming base, and unimaginative. They kept telling me I had to play. Well play is all I ever did. I thought I was playing. I guess they meant play with drugs and alcohol, loosen yourself up so you can create better. But when outside tutors, from around the world, came to work with us, and worked with me they were telling me I had it. Those tutors I worked with every day told me I didn’t. I was discouraged, I lost the joy of the work I was doing. I took my final year off to reflect. To refocus. To find joy again. I found joy immediately. I realised that joy was in creating. That I love creating. I love the work. So much! And I thought THEY don’t know my work. They don’t know me. I don’t actually need them, I don’t need them stealing my light. And I didn’t go back.
I’ve been creating since then. Not every day though. I’ve not been developing my art.
There have been times when I will sit down and draw and paint. My world lights up. I don’t believe I have created the best I can create yet. I don’t think I have nailed my style. I want to write. Desperately I want to write, AND I want to paint and draw. I want to live a creative life. I want to travel and I want to talk to people about what I am making. About how I am thinking. About how I can change the world with my thoughts, with the world inside of me. But I make excuses.
I’ve worked for long enough as a life coach to understand why I get nowhere. I know why it is. It’s not for lack of talent. I have talent coming out my ears. I always imagined I could have been that guy in that TV show ‘the pretender’ and been whatever I wanted, because I was that good. Not that I necessarily am, but I always thought that. I had confidence in my ability to learn, to try, to give everything my best go and to leave it all on the court, as the saying goes. But when I am honest with myself, it’s a lie.
I am not giving it my best go.
If I were giving it my best go I would give up all my other jobs. I would say “No. Enough. This is my life. This is my job. I am a creative. I do not leave the house until something is down on the page, whether that is writing, whether that is drawing or painting.” But I don’t.
Oh but I can’t. I have bills to pay. I have kids to feed. I have to keep my husband in this lifestyle that makes him proud of HIS achievements. Not that I am the only one contributing to that, but he couldn’t live that way without the income I earn too. I have to lead a life that when I meet those people I went to school with again and they stand in front of me telling me about their achievements, and their wonderful life, I can nod and say to myself, “yes. I have achieved greatly too.”
But I don’t think I will.
I think that when I stand in front of my school mates and hear what they have done with their lives, and I think about what I have achieved I will think, “Wow! I really missed the boat!”
Yes, I have a beautiful house.
Yes, I have a job which pays the bills really well, and that I think contributes to society, and which I can be proud of. I love my job, don’t get me wrong.
Yes, I have kids who are so wonderful.
Yes, I have a husband whom I love deeply, who supports me, who makes me laugh.
Yes, I have all these things which supposedly makes people “accomplished”.
But I don’t think I am accomplished. I think accomplishment for me would be having books published. It would be having people wanting my art. It would be creating every single day. It would be contributing to the world in the way the lord has blessed me with the talent to contribute.
Oh, but my family, oh but my job, oh but food, oh but shelter. Yes all of that. Yes the world needs to buy my stuff. Yes the world needs to invest in my talent. Yes all this stuff needs to fall into place. BUT. First, I need to create.
I need to stop making excuses. I need to work.
Oh but I don’t have time.
Yes, But I need to create.
It is my life force.
I need to find the time. Make the time. I’m creative. Surely time can be made somehow. It always has been before. So many times I’ve heard people ask “How did you find time to get ALL of THAT done in such a short amount of time?” I’m just really great at creating time. And yet, for my creative practise, I don’t.
Why is this not important enough to me?
Have I been slammed for the work I create that many times I’ve believed it all? Probably. But I don’t have to give up. Giving up is a choice. One I have taken that many times, and that hasn’t worked.
I look at the work of my friend, artist Michelle Bellamy and I think ‘god! It was so easy for her! What a life she must live! I wish I was her!’ She is a great artist. She is renowned for the beautiful detailed paintings of New Zealand bachs. They are incredible. But when I really think about her, it wasn’t just the fact that her parents were both involved heavily in the art world in Nelson that got her where she is now. Although, certainly that would have helped. And although that is what I have been led to believe through “caring” individuals who belittle her talent for my benefit (I’m sorry Michelle. Sometimes I have put down your talent to make myself feel better. It is one thing to not be attracted to a particular style, and another to criticise the work as talentless altogether.) I understand, when I think honestly about it, that what got Michelle to the stage she is in now with being a full time artist in New Zealand and living from her rather large (I would guess) income, is her hard work. She has been practising her art since she was just a child. Every single day at school she was drawing. She took every art class she could. She created things every day. She had her first exhibition when she was 16. She was selling her work since she was 16. She didn’t make excuses out of school “Oh but I have to earn a wage”, “oh but this”, “Oh but that”. She went out and did her art thing. She made that work.
Hard work, has worked.
Even now I am too scared to really set the gauntlet down for myself. Even now I her myself saying to myself “oh but”. I know that I probably won’t be that person who makes something every day. But I know for a fact, that if I really want to get somewhere. I have to. That has to be my life. I have to find a way. I have to stop making excuses as to why not. And start making excuses as to why I will. Why I did.
I have the talent. I need to build the endless stamina to try and try again.