Friday, October 16, 2009

Are Creative Endeavors a Product of Pain?

During my mid-teen years, arguably some of the hardest in my life, I was prone to expressing myself through creative means. I made up little ditties such as The Poppy Seed Muffin Song on the spot, a brainchild of improvisation. Of course, this song, and many others like it that I have long forgot, made me an instant hit with a lot of the girls my age and, unsurprisingly, instilled some resentment with some of the more physically expressive guys looking for their share of attention. The truth of the matter was that my antics were a product of the pain I felt inside and an effort to bridge the gap that I felt between myself and the rest of the world. The outcome, however, was quite unfortunate: I found that despite all of my efforts, I only seemed to amass a large amount of fair-weather-friends. These friends were happy to have me around, just so long as I didn't allow my pain to show through the grand charade. Always being quite intuitive, I picked up on this fact early on, but couldn't help but play along... some contact, however shallow and trivial, was better than none at all. Making people laugh made me happy.

The writing I did during this earlier period was mostly just letters and notes. The majority of my time was spent reading. How could I not? On most days my life consisted of going to school, coming home, and spending the rest of the night hidden away in my room except for phone calls and dinner. My only friends after school were my animals. To be lounging around the house during those years was dangerous for me. I couldn't just head off to my friend's houses, we lived out away from the subdivisions and I was often denied my requests for parole - though my siblings had an easier time of it. My mother felt that she was losing her relationship with my father, and he blamed me for destroying their marriage. No, I wasn't an only child, I was just the only one that they didn't really get along with. It's a long story, and one I don't feel like delving into for this post.

It is no real surprise, then, that I took so readily to writing as a form of expression. My poems and short stories were a hit, yet here too I encountered resentment. Even though my stories and poems were the hit of my Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing classes, I was turned down for publication in the school literary journal during both my sophomore and junior years in high school. I'm not sure if I finally made it during my senior year or not, but the rejection cut quite deep at the time. In each case, one of the Creative Writing teachers told me that they had really tried to convince the student committee in charge of selecting the pieces for publication that my submission belonged, and both years the outcome was the same. Apparently being on the committee was a sure-fire way to get your work in the publication, and though I did consider joining for that sole purpose, I just couldn't stand the idea that my writing had been published for that reason alone.

I can't imagine that all writers are hurting, or have a history of pain in their lives, though I am sure there are a fair number with their own demons to bear. Whether the majority of writing is the product of pain or just a form of expression that some people are drawn to, I can't say. Perhaps for me it was more an avenue of escape; one that was replaced with overt responsibility when I joined the military, and washed over with the countless hours I spent playing video games to ease the burden of a choice I made to give my wife and my little girl a better life. After all those years I want that avenue back, not so much to escape anything, but because I feel like it is a part of me that I have denied for too long.

How about you? Whether you write, paint, knit, sculpt, or carve: why do you feel compelled to create?

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