In pursuit

Anyone in the pursuit of art is responding to a desire to make visible that which is not, to offer the unknown self to others — Hettie Jones

Anything that I have done, that would be considered in the realm of art, was done in the pursuit of self-expression, self-acceptance and maintaining some semblance of sanity.

That’s how it was with flamenco and piano. And that’s how it is with writing and photography.

Doing things to please anyone other than myself has always ended in eventual disappointment for me. For the others, not so much. The disappointment is something that everyone else fails to see or doesn’t want to see. Or if they do see it, they either ignore it or start shaming you for being for not being selfless enough. They want to ostracize you. They decide that you’re socially dysfunctional. They decide you’re not nice enough, not friendly enough. What they really mean is they decide that since you haven’t done enough to bend over backwards for them, you are not a decent human being.

To borrow from Darth Vader: Your lack of self-sacrifice and commitment to some form of servitude is disturbing.

Three words: Go. Fuck. Yourself.

In the personal pursuit of self-expression, self-acceptance and my version of sanity, I forget that there are folks I know who have read my writing (specifically the first novel), and who are asking me if there is another book in the works.

I was asked that question last week. Judging by the looks these three ladies gave me, they seemed to be chomping at the bit to read anything I produce. Instead of feeling daunted by their expectations, I still found myself surprised that anyone would want to read a bunch of words I string together in an effort to tell a story.

I told them they would see something eventually. They asked me politely to hurry it up. I guess I’ll have a meeting with my boys and the rest of the crew from the next novel about that this week.

I’ve come up with a general idea of when the next book will be ready. Can’t be more than that. Let’s just say the possibility of it being ready is a more tangible concept now than it would have been six months ago.

Now, if I can only get the rest of my life to co-operate with my plans…

Spilling blood

It would be impossible to estimate how much time and energy we invest in trying to fix, change and deny our emotions – especially the ones that shake us at our very core, like hurt, jealousy, loneliness, shame, rage and grief — Debbie Ford

Last week I tried writing an 800-word personal essay as an assignment for a writing group I am a member of. Quite honestly, I thought I did a half-decent job at it. That was until one of my peers gave me his opinion on the piece.

At our most recent get-together, this peer commented that the essay wasn’t compelling enough. There wasn’t any blood on the page. No ‘oh, fuck’ moment. My peer (and friend) is a good guy. He’s also good at pushing my buttons because I’ll push back.

Quite honestly, I wanted to ask him whose blood he wanted on the page. But, I figured it was my blood, so I didn’t bother asking. Then I realized part of the purpose of a personal essay to not only talk about yourself but to reveal something about yourself. I missed the last meeting due to a prior commitment so I guess that was what the group had discussed.

Here’s an explanation of what a personal essay is by Richard Nordquist from Thought Co.:
A personal essay is a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner. Also called a personal statement.

And here’s an addition to what’s already been said from a blog about the personal essay from
Personal essays relate the author’s intimate thoughts and experiences to universal truths. They’re aren’t simply a retelling of events, though — that falls more in the realm of memoir or autobiography. They conclude with the author having learned, changed or grown in some way and often present some truth or insight that challenges the reader to draw their own conclusions.

So during the discussion regarding my attempt to write a personal essay, I realized I had a fundamental problem. Here’s my problem: I FUCKIN’ HATE talking about myself in any sort of revelatory fashion. I’ll talk about the writing process. I’ll talk about politics if I feel compelled to do so. I’ll talk about films, music, the art of storytelling. I’ll even talk about gardening. I can count on one hand, the number of times I’ve talked about myself outside of those parameters. I’ve blogged about the disintegration of a friendship that I’m grateful not to be a part of anymore. I touched on the topic of the breast cancer fight I had 10 years ago. Let’s see… I may have touched on past relationships, too.

What they have in common (aside from me) is I never offered specifics. I spoke in broad brush strokes. That was intentional. Why? Who the fuck wants to know that much about me? There are folks who have no idea that too much information is more often than not, a bad thing. They insist on knowing things like who was your first love, what’s your greatest regret and what’s your great vulnerability. What is the value of knowing this? I’m sure one of the responses would be “Well, I’d like to get to know you better.” Here’s my reaction: Fuck you. I don’t know you nor am I interested in getting to know you.

Yeah, I sound like a cranky bitch, but I couldn’t give a shit.

And who are these fucking idiots? If they’re not counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists, they don’t need to know my shit.

Here’s something that needs to be pointed out. We have three lives — the public, the private and the secret. For me, the secret influences the public and the private. So yes, I hate talking about myself in specifics. I’ll give you broad brush strokes but no details.

Another reason for speaking in broad brush strokes: if I named the subjects in these blogs, one of two things would happened. One — I would be frothing at the mouth over the figurative six-foot deep graves I just prepared for my gagged and bound subjects to be unceremoniously shoved into. I don’t think anyone is prepared for my vitriolic sentiments and actions. Two — if any of the subjects got word that I’ve painted them in less than shining light than what most people are familiar with, they’ll be demanding (publicly or privately) I take back my words. I don’t think they like dealing with collateral damage whereas I’m quite familiar with being collateral damage. They’ll paint me as a vindictive, crazy woman (if they want me to own it, I’ll own it. No worries there.) while they cry over their delusional versions of themselves being besmirched.

I believe that 99 per cent of the so-called civilized society would prefer I not name names or not hear about the people, places and things that would put my figurative blood on the page. For a civilized society, the illusion of decorum, propriety and prudence is necessary. The longer I breathe, the more I find myself raging against this illusion. Deny the hurt, deny the jealousy, deny the loneliness, deny the shame, deny the rage and deny the grief because they are ugly, raw emotions that no one is comfortable in dealing with.

And yet, I’m supposed to bleed for a personal essay?

No one is prepared for blood I can spill.

So, I will leave that for my fictional characters. They will bleed for me.

Spoilin’ for a fight

When people ask you what is Mexican about your movies, I say ‘me’. Because without my head, my gut and my balls, the movies wouldn’t exist… they come from those three fucking sources. You go ‘you know, I don’t give a shit. I’m gonna do this.’ That is very Mexican, you know. I’m gonna try it… It’s just a special brand of madness… that makes us create these things. I think that is more important than having nationalistic values — Guillermo del Toro speaking during a press conference at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival

I must have been a Mexican in a previous life because I’m of the ‘You know, I don’t give a shit. I’m gonna do this’ mentality these days. It’s taken me awhile to start owning that way of thinking. But I’m starting to get the hang of it even though it perturbs me to have to still play nice with folks I no longer wish to have any contact.

I won’t get into what kept me from wearing the mantle of ‘I don’t give a shit’ with any sort of confidence. I don’t have enough salve to offer for the third degree burns your ears would suffer from my tirade.

My recent research trip and a weekend email exchange with someone who has been important in my development as a writer has reaffirmed my personal belief that following my gut when it comes to storytelling is the right path to take. And that path is very much a solitary (but far from lonely) one, punctuated by people I’ve chosen to allow into my writing process. Yep, my lone wolf tendencies are showing again. With those who are not part of the process, I choose to remain vague. Depending on who they are and how they fit, or not fit, into my life, I will often say nothing at all. Even if they do ask, I’ll say nothing of significance and kill the conversation.

I realize there is a curiosity from those who say they don’t have an artistic or creative bone in their body. Even among creatives, there is a curiosity about how the creative process works within different art forms and mediums. Depending on who the curious parties are, I will try to answer their questions because I don’t mind sharing with those folks. And for those, with whom I don’t want to share even a sliver of my process, my time or my life, again, I politely shut them down, unless they want me to pointedly tell them to go fuck themselves. Then I will gladly, and gleefully, tell them to go fuck themselves.

While discussing the process may be of benefit to other writers, I’m not one of them. I’d rather step away from the conversation and get back to working on my personal projects. It’s not entirely a lack of patience or anti-social characteristics I may be displaying. It’s a matter of ‘I got shit to do, I’d like to go do it, thank you very much.’

I have no doubt that I have a special brand of madness that makes me want to tell the stories I want to tell, especially the one I’m currently working on. I have no doubt there will be some sort of controversy surrounding certain aspects of the story I plan to tell.

Yeah, I might be spoiling for a fight. It’s only because I believe in my growing abilities as a storyteller. If someone wants a donnybrook, I’ll give ’em a fuckin’ donnybrook.