I once read a book, quite a famous book, called Tuesdays with Morrie by writer and journalist Mitch Albom. This book was extremely popular, hitting the top of bestseller lists all over the world. It was a non-fiction account of Albom’s connection with elderly and dying Morrie Schwartz. Through these meetings and their discussions, Albom learned the wisdoms of life – what is most important; love, care, giving and that sort of thing.
I didn’t like the book, because I felt that any thinking person would have already known those things and that Albom had made a fortune out of stating the obvious. I was on my own there (a rather fiery book club meeting proved it) and I recognise that my evaluation is obviously skewed.
Anyway, the point of all that is, since reading Tuesdays with Morrie, I have always been nervous about stating the obvious or announcing some grand realisation that everyone else has filed away years ago. It must happen. I just feel self-conscious about it.
I was listening to an interview with US art critic Jerry Saltz about his book How to be an Artist. In this unfortunately short interview, Saltz pulled out a few things that he thinks are essential for creatives in all sorts of fields. To be creative, and to be a successful creative, one must be prepared to be embarrassed. He goes so far as to say that we need to become radically vulnerable. That’s a scary thing.
I have always known this to a degree but perhaps I didn’t realise. Saltz’s words drove it home. I remember, in my early days as a classical singer, being determined to perform even though I knew I was only a beginner. The experience would leave me drained and, yes, painfully embarrassed. The next time was harder as I knew what I was in for. Luckily, I persevered. Now it is visual art – showing it to the world and wondering what the world will think of it, hanging yourself, effectively, in an exhibition and wondering whether anyone will like you, or buy you. Radical vulnerability. It certainly gets easier as your confidence and skill grows but the agony of standing up, or hanging up, seems to be a rite of passage for life as a creative person.
I apologise to all those who already had these thoughts embedded. I’d hate to be restating the obvious or even expanding on the obvious. It’s been in my thoughts for the week, though, so it has been good to share.