On making art and “Me, too!”

I was getting coffee with a friend recently. The friend is a staggeringly talented painter and we were discussing how we each approach art. She asked me: “What drives your work?” Having just stumbled through graduation, a wedding, a cross-country move, out of my first real job and into another, her question caught me off guard a little. Because the truth was, in the ten months since graduation, it was difficult to remember the last time I’d sat down and made something meaningful. I hadn’t carved out that space in my schedule. I hadn’t left myself the margin that creativity requires. It had been so long since I’d tapped into that side of myself, I’d begun to forget something I always considered a defining part of who I was.

Still searching for an answer to her question, I pulled back the curtains and thought about all the times it had happened before: up late in the empty, still printmaking studio surrounded by the smell of ink and Windex; sitting at my desk, up past midnight because I couldn’t put down my pen; pulling out my notebook on a train going through the Italian countryside. I remembered the peculiar, unmistakable (almost feverish) feeling that overtook me when I found myself on the trail of some kind of truth. 

I am an ENTP. According to my personality description, that means I am on a constant quest to find meaning and substance and truth in the world around me. I’m a writer, on a lifelong quest to document my own emotional landscape. I have my life since age 15 meticulously recorded in little leather-bound notebooks. You can run a finger across the page and feel the words pressed into it from the hard course of a ballpoint pen in the hand of a teenage girl. I used words like “marmoreal” and “taciturn” – words I don’t even know anymore—to describe what it was like to go through my own series of firsts. First loves, first breakups, first time leaving home. Even later, when I learned to use my adjectives a little more sparingly, I wrote about falling in love with Thomas and the night he proposed and driving him back to the airport when the weekend was over. I wrote for pages trying to describe a single feeling, trying to capture that moment in time to revisit later, like a fly suspended in amber.

Even as a natural born seeker and documenter, it can be difficult for me to know what and where to write. I chose a career that lets me write everyday—helping businesses and organizations tell their stories. I write stories for magazines and newspapers. I still keep those little notebooks close at hand to record life’s big and small moments and my emotional pulse as they happen. I have a journal where I write my prayers and sermon notes. I have loose index cards that hold to-do lists and a monthly planner for keeping it all straight. As wonderful as all these outlets are, it still felt like there was something missing. I needed somewhere I could grappled with personal topics in a shared, communal space. As much as I love writing privately, I think there’s a lot of value in sharing my work publicly in this little corner of the internet. 

In conversation with my friend that day in the coffee shop, I found my answer: “Truth.” If could boil down the driving force behind my work, whether writing or art, that would be it. I’ve been given my own specific experiences: strange, spectacular, heartbreaking, and humiliating. Sometimes all at once. I want to take my own little corner of this universe and invite people into it in hopes that they will understand something about theirs. And maybe it will trigger that realization that I’ve discovered over and over through the work of others: “I am not alone.” That’s what the best art does for me, and that’s what I’ll continue striving for in mine. Not just as an artist and a writer, but also as a friend, sister, wife and daughter. That’s what I’m going to aim to do here on this blog, too. I want to share little moments of truth in my life and hear about the ones happening in yours. I want a forum where we can tell each other: “Me, too!” Because those are two of the sweetest words I know. 

One thought on “On making art and “Me, too!”

  1. Crazy! I am an ENFP (so close, yet so far away) and your experience with finding the truth in your art has struck a chord with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your passion on your happy little space here. You’ve inspired me to share more of my own experience on my blog too!

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