01 February 2016

Hold On - Courage As A Perfectionist

I'm sitting here stressing out -- again. About my family, about my friends, about my job. Last year was notoriously difficult and while things have leveled out some (the death rate has slowed down if nothing else), there's still plenty to freak out about -- my future. My family's future. The paths my friends are taking. All of those choices that I have to make and that the people around me are making. Now more than ever I understand the sentiment behind Randy Stonehill's classic Stop The World ("stop the world, I want to get off...").

Three years ago -- it seems like this was a completely different person then -- I had a dream and though I knew it would be difficult and I may not succeed, I went after it. The other day I was going through some papers and I found an article I had printed off of the Daniel Amos website because it was so inspiring. Terry Taylor was talking about the high road of artistry, how great art inspires and ennobles... that's who I wanted to be. That's still who I want to be. But now, having faced some of the very worst that the world has to offer (relationally), I despair if I can be that encouragement that I wanted to be. I can't even get myself out of this rut, how in the world can I possibly help anybody else? It's to the point where I'm too afraid to start anything creative. This has stymied all of my artistic output for more or less a year now. And it's the fear of everything -- fear that I won't be able to touch anybody, or be competent in my art, or even be able to pay for my own food and lodging. Probably the only fear that isn't a huge deal is the fear of people not taking me seriously -- I'm used to that, and I've had a while to acquaint myself with the idea that nobody likes an artist as a person.

I can't fix the world. I can't fix the world around me that's falling apart and I hate myself for it.

I'm a perfectionist. I always have been. For years I actually thought it was a good thing -- it was always trumped up as a virtue by the people around me. I nurtured it until I realised it was killing me and then I began to realise (slowly) that there were times I could (and should) loosen my hold on it. And I did -- rather successfully, in fact. Until everybody started dying.

And now it's back. Everything's back. All that self-blame, all the 'what if I had been here instead of there?' 'what if I had done things differently?' 'maybe it's my fault.' They say the greatest art comes from artists who battle the strongest demons of the heart, the mind, and the soul -- I touched on this in Kyrie -- but at what cost? Even the artist in Kyrie committed suicide. I knew the life of an artist was hard, but thought that somehow my love of creating art would pull me through it and help me to process it. Instead, I've become so scared of ruining this life that's already falling apart that I'm avoiding the very thing that, by all accounts, should help me. Isn't this where the greatest art comes from? ...from the depths of despair and anger and fear? Am I missing out on a huge treasure trove of art just beneath the surface?

What courage it must take for the artist to continue to wake up every single morning and commit to creating something even if he feels it will go absolutely nowhere. I know the failed projects are still learning opportunities -- I've experienced this myself. If it wasn't for the gong show that was my tenth NaNoWriMo novel, I wouldn't know what not to do nearly as well as I do now. The novels that came after that novel showed a marked jump up in quality, even for rough drafts. But for the artist to look at the families falling apart around him, to feel the pressure of a life of poverty that isn't always escapable, to see all the darkness consuming those he loves more than his own life, and to still try to capture the glimmer of light that he cannot see but hopes to heaven still exists is perhaps one of the greatest and most Herculean acts of courage a human being can attempt. And right now, I seriously doubt that I have that kind of courage -- the courage that whispers, hold on.

It's not about success. Or even about touching people's souls (yet). It's the courage to wake up every single morning and face a day in which somebody may die. Or leave their spouse. Or get cancer. And still try to create art to encourage people when your own soul despairs of ever being happy again.

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