Creating Art in the Real World

IMG_1586My latest published journal entry raises an interesting question: How to produce art without thinking of one’s reality? That is, how do we — as artists — handle creating art that might offend/upset/clash with our real life.

I struggle with this. When I was working on my MFA thesis, I wrote a book of poems centered on (very abstractly) a past relationship that I was in prior to meeting my husband. Why?

Because that’s all I could write. It’s what I needed to write. It’s what inspired me — and in a sense could not be controlled. If you’re an artist — of any kind — I think you probably understand this. That feeling of inspiration.

As a poet, I faced a blank page every day, and some days — if I was lucky — words would tumble out. Images. Like “fall leaves and lights from windows.” Like “on the side of the road, covered/in stones.” Like “swimming in green fog.”

Often I don’t know what the words mean until I spend time with them, revising, moving them around the page. To write my thesis, I had to put myself in a dark place; I had to feel the pain of the past relationship — and, at times, that made me feel like a bad wife. My art was butting up against my reality because I found myself depressed in moments.

Even today, as I work on a memoir about love, I’m exploring past relationships, including the one on which I wrote my thesis. This is not easy. I am happily married with two beautiful boys, and I try to be present in my life with my family. But then I must face the page, my art.

As I continue this blog/project, my present and my past are sure to conflict. I’m nervous about this, but I take it one day at a time, one journal entry a day.

My husband has always been supportive of my work, but this doesn’t mean it’s easy. I love him for this. Just know that, please.

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4 thoughts on “Creating Art in the Real World

  1. When I first started to write poetry, I wrote what I knew. Thus, my life was very much present in those early poems, so much so that they hurt the people closest to me. Try as I might, I never could fully explain how something true in a poem didn’t necessarily mean the living and breathing truth of the moment. I still feel the weight of that concern/conflict, and I think it partially explains why I moved away from strict autobiography and why I’m more circumspect with whom and when I share poems. The other reason I moved away from autobiography is that I simply was tired of myself and writing about myself and wanted to explore other things and ways of saying things. Does my life still intrude into and upon my poems? Most definitely. I can only hope that the people who recognize themselves in them will understand that some of my poems are the way I come to terms with things or are how I express longing.

    I love this post. I know I’ll be thinking about the topic for a long time to come.

    • Thanks, Erin. I agree with you. My poems were very narrative and very autobiographical, but the more I wrote the more abstract they became. Even though they are based on a true experience and emotion, it’s the emotion I try to capture in the poems more than accurate details. The memoir is a different beast, though.

  2. I really love this post. As someone from the other side (married to a writer), I appreciate all you are saying. It took me some time, especially early in our relationship, to really become secure in the fact that life is one thing, art another (even though, of course, they are linked).

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