Sunday

An artist friend of mine whom I grew up with does this thing where he goes to what we here in Japan call live bars (ライブバー) to paint as the music is playing. Apparently it is a common thing these days to go to see a band in a dank bar or big open festival and see lots of easels set up with artists in attendance. Painting at a concert adds double meaning to the phrase ‘performance art’.

What interests me about it, other than giving hard-working painters a chance to generate some resources and admirers, is that it makes work that is usually solitary and invisible instantly accessible. This act is very important, the disrobing of the creative process. To be transparent and public about something that is traditionally a solitary act means that more people can understand how the work is done. Why is that important, one might ask, and doesn’t it take the magic away? I will answer the second question first: no. The magic comes from an unknown source of energy and insight that possesses the creative’s hands and eyes and can only be tapped through hard work. There is a certain threshold you must cross in order to access the magic and yes, some people need to be in complete isolation in order to get there. Some people also cannot sleep unless the room is absolutely dark. It has nothing to do with the magic itself but with the individual creative’s approach to their work (or the demands of that particular work).

Transparency is important, to answer the first question now, because too often people forego engaging in artistic creation because it seems too complicated or they have too much self-doubt. It is as if I gave you a delicious layered cake decorated with intricate flowers, waited until you were finished savoring it, and then said, okay, now it is your turn. Most people would decline the challenge. Of the small percentage that try, only one person will actually make the same cake and that person will be heralded as a genius. Half of the others will fail and walk away and the other half will find a recipe and probably fail that as well, at least on their first go. But if you said instead, here’s a cake, eat up, then watch how I made the cake (a very popular pastime, I believe, considering how many baking tutorials there are out there), then more people would stand a chance of actually accomplishing their goal.

Humans are creative creatures by nature. Every single one of us comes into this world equipped with a creative drive and we use it in countless ways throughout the day that we probably would not consider creative. Creativity is, simply put, problem solving. When I fix a leak or paint a watercolor, I am using the same skills. Writing a story is problem solving as well, trying to figure out how to say what you want to say in a way that will resonate with readers is not too different from considering how to balance the household budget. A lot of tedious work goes into art along with that magic. What is the formula, ninety-nine percent sweat and tears and one percent inspiration? Too often we focus on the one percent, ignoring the rest of that calculation.

And yet while we are all creative by nature, not everyone enters the arts. This is fine if there is no interest but I really think that the world would be much better if everyone took up an art or craft. It doesn’t need to be your calling or your bread and butter, but it is a way of making sense of this world, of processing it and coming to terms with it. We are constantly bombarded by others’ summaries of the world and the powers-that-be rely on us to accept their readily offered conclusions of life so they can manipulate us.

There is too much passivity involved in our daily lives: we absorb but do not contribute. This makes us soft and vulnerable to exploitation. Engaging in art or craft makes you strong, resistant and resilient. You can observe what is being offered without claiming it as your own because in the end, what you are really creating, whether it be a tea cup or a thousand-page novel, is a means of accessing the truth.

Reality can be produced and hawked; truth is absolutely non-profit.

So if you were wondering why I am writing my stories out in the open, well, that is why. I want you to see my flawed drafts, to watch as the story unfolds and is snipped and tucked by my editing mind. I want you to notice how long it takes for me to write a paragraph some days, how I will often start a new project and neglect the old one for a while.
I am not interested in just giving you the cake or the recipe; I want you to watch me make mine so you can go out there and make your own.