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Flowers and Fireworks - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
Flowers and Fireworks
Thanks to my debilitating lifelong condition - a six-month attention span - I'm already starting to feel constrained in this job. Beyond the daily requirements here, and the sketch contest we have every Friday afternoon, I haven't picked up a pencil in weeks. I think I'm through with art.

Fortunately, I still get satisfaction from the mechanics of drawing and painting, and I have never walked away from a job unless I outright loathed it. I don't loathe this. I'm as content as I've been in any job. This leaves me with no reason to walk away from the excellent wage, accommodating office and brilliant co-workers I currently enjoy. Damn good thing.

I jumped back four years in my journal today, to November 2004. Please don't do the same, I was a typical 22-year-old and some of you have lived through 22-year-old-me once already. I'm sure 26-year-old-me is no walk in the park either.

I went back in order to satisfy my curiosity, as I remember November 2004 being one of the happiest months of my life, and I wasn't sure if that memory was genuine or just an attack of "good old days" syndrome. The rest of that year was a difficult time. Robbie and I were living with my dad on the Sunshine Coast, getting back on our fiscal feet after the Disney experience had turned me into a broke cynic, and we were sharing the house with Chris and Jess. Dad was recently-divorced and suffering from depression. Mum had taken off overseas. Jess was attempting to run the house her way against everyone else's wishes. Chris was acting out Jess's wishes, much to the chagrin of his family. Rob was working for an employer he hated. I was burned out, unemployed, and whilst being back in Caloundra was good for the former situation, it wasn't helping the latter.

It was November, stinking-hot November and I was stuck in a little alcove at the top of the stairs, the one room in the house with no ceiling fan, the highest point of the house, the place where the summer heat went to party. Up in my hothouse I wrote all day with sweat-drops tickling trails down my neck and legs. I was writing a novel. The novel sucked, as a first novel from a 22-year-old with no training and no outline generally does, but I have never been happier.

Then December rolled around, we got into house-hunting in Brisbane, and by the time I revisited the 40,000-word draft I'd turned out in a month I realised that it was, in fact, awful. Half of the problem was my lack of outline; I hadn't thought through where the story was going or why the characters would do the things I wanted them to do to get it there. I really just had a couple of concepts, some cool visuals and a whole lot of preconceptions and cliches.

The other half of the problem was that I lacked life experience at that point. I'd never been through anything really trying. At age 22, my parents divorce, leaving Disney and the death of my pet cat were the worst events I'd dealt with. When I tried to get inside the mind of a character who was experiencing heartbreak, I had nothing to base it on; I'd never experienced heartbreak myself. Half of what I knew about human emotion had been gleaned from books and television, everything secondhand.

Farenheit 451 is one of my favourite books, and inside it is one of my favourite quotes. Author Ray Bradbury wrote:

The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.

So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth. Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality.

I hadn't really touched life in 2004. I've barely touched it now. But back then I lived couched in certainty, predictability, and with an unshakeable confidence in my own mind and my choices. My life had no shades of gray; without that complexity, what did I have to say that hadn't been said a thousand times before? Life has touched me a few times now, and every single time it damn near killed me.

That is worth writing about.

PS: There was no way to fit this in above, but I had to make a note of it: Partway through November's journalling, I've written a one-line entry that reads: "My father is out in the living room ranting about yams."
4 have fought ~ fight the power!
c_eagle From: c_eagle Date: October 8th, 2008 08:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Woww...... 8| Well, if so, that's certainly a pivotal moment. I sure hope you'll never leave art completely, since you have a great knack for it, but if it ultimately will feel better not to pursue it commercially, that could be valid if you choose it to be.
Either path you take... you are head and shoulders above many!
peterchayward From: peterchayward Date: October 8th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Not a large amount of payment, but payment nonetheless.

I've been working on a puppet show lately - we're considering animated transitions. If we go with them, I was going to ask if you'd help us with them. (with payment, of course.)

Nothing's set in stone, but is it the kind of thing you'd be interested in?
tania From: tania Date: October 8th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Not a large amount of payment, but payment nonetheless.

I promised myself I wouldn't take on any more freelance art - with the full-time job and all, it's just too stressful. I have a friend who is working part-time and doing some freelance at the moment though; when you know exactly what you're after, let me know and I'll run it by her. :)
tania From: tania Date: October 8th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Not a large amount of payment, but payment nonetheless.

Joe may be interested in getting involved in some way with your puppet show, btw. His email is inc_b@hotmail.com and he's going to be at loose ends (outside of work) for the next week, as I'll be interstate. I reckon he'd be pretty pleased to hear from you! :)
4 have fought ~ fight the power!