Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crazy Like an Artist - Mild Insanity

There are, as I see it, three types of crazy to which artists are familiar. I say this from my personal experience, from knowing some artist types and from casual familiarity with stories of famous artists. (I love to read interviews.)

It is possible there's only one type of crazy and maybe all that varies between my labels is the degree. Perhaps each could be measured in terms of the number of people we are comfortable expressing the insanity to. Would I talk about it to my wife? My wife and kids? My friends? Would I say it in front of my church? Would I tweet about it?

At any rate, I want to address the first type briefly, and that is the most mild of the three. It's the one we are most likely to flaunt. We might be a bit proud of it. We're almost certainly not ashamed of it, at least not in the individual manifestations. 

It's found in the out of balance (according to the normal people) priorities that allow us to make our art. It's how we find time when everyone else says there's none to be had. It's what we give up or take on that the rest of the world would never do.

While I would argue we all have the potential to be artists to some extent, it's clear most of the world isn't doing it. At least they aren't consciously. So, for those of us doing what it takes to make art, we necessarily have to make different choices with our time, money and other resources. The better and bigger our art, the more pronounced these differences are.

They leave the normal people shaking their heads. "I could never do that," they say.

One example of my apparent insanity is the fact that I don't watch television. I grew up watching quite a bit of it and I enjoyed a lot of shows. I'd say I watched rather intelligently. I certainly learned a lot from those hours of viewing about stories, real life events and the art of making a movie.

But when I was doing my student teaching I got too busy for television. I quit watching it for three months and I never went back. When I do have to watch it now, I'm terribly bored with almost any of it.

It has worked well for me these past two decades, both in expenses of time and money. I often forget how strange it is to others, particularly students, to find out I don't watch it. I do own an old television, but it's not even hooked up to get a channel. This has amazed many a teenager. It's craziness.

And it's just one example.

I could go on, but for now, here are a few things of value I find in these observations:
  • Think about what you've given up or taken on to accomplish your art--your contribution. Sometimes we don't really think of them. The craziness is that it's normal to us. So acknowledge the sacrifice is not to pat ourselves on the back, but if we're going to help others take the next step in their journey, we need to be aware of the costs, even if we've paid them so long they don't feel like loss. 
  • Being aware of and comfortable in this fairly acceptable type of madness (i.e., uniqueness) could help us with the more drastic forms I'll discuss later.
  • At times in a long pursuit of a vision, the weight of even these small oddities can add up. I have seriously questioned the wisdom of some decisions that, at the time felt worth it, but later looked like quirks that merely distracted me from whatever the rest of the world is enjoying. In those times of doubt there is no way to know. It has helped, though, to be thankful for the craziness. Perhaps quirks, shortcomings and ignorance steered most steps, but thank God for the moment to be there. When all the rest of the world wonders, it is because no one else (humanly speaking) is in that exact same place us. None could be and in that there is a gift. In making art, we too are being made. I can't explain this well, but I have found the peace that comes from resting in the gift of uniqueness. 

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