Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Perils of Praise and the Artistic Ego

At the end of the day everyone wants to be appreciated and admired. We all work hard. Whatever it is we do, we work hard at it day in and day out. Sometimes there is a lot of tangible reward to our work and sometimes there is not. When there is not a tangible compensation for our work, like a pay check or some sort of award, we look for the intangible; praise.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated and like all of their hard work was worth all the effort that was funneled into whatever the project was. It is amazing how far a "Good job", "Well done", or "That is amazing!" can take a person. When these words come from the mouths of those in positions of power or from the well respected in your community it means all that  much more. Someone who is considered the best giving you even the slightest praise can send a person dancing on clouds.

Lets face it, it also feels really good to be praised and admired. It is a sort of endorphin inducing experience to be lauded for your efforts. When those moments of praise come in a public forum it is an even bigger high. Not only are you being appreciated but you are having your work publicly justified. Justification of your hard work is important and for many is the difference between soldiering on and quitting.

I mean who wants to work hard all the time with nothing to show for it. If no one in charge cares why should you care? I mean isn't that why we are all doing this? To be loved and adored by those we admire and respect?

Sadly this is the point many of us find ourselves, especially artists.

Artists are not necessarily unique in the world, but they seem to be some of the most praise dependent people there are. Without some form of affirmation and acknowledgement it is hard to tell if what you are doing is worth it. When your medium is completely subjective it makes everything you do potentially both a failure and a success all at the same time.

Whether you are creating physical works of art, writing stories, making music, or performing there is a high chance that what you are doing will be loved as loudly as it is hated. You can have a gallery opening with people sneering at what they see while critics are writing 10 inches on how inspirational your work is. You can have patrons giving you standing ovations while the review the next day is nothing short of insulting.

It is safe to say that this sort of hot and cold reception can be nothing short of maddening. For artists, who lead what is often a manic and maddening existence to start with, that sort of commentary on what is our passion can be positively devastating.

Artists egos are fragile things. You find your artists mostly in two flavors; tough as nails and don't seem to give a damn what anyone thinks of what they do, and so fragile that the most insignificant tangential online comment can send them into a self loathing spiral of doom.

When actual awards are involved, and not just a nice pat on the back, things get even worse. We get so wrapped up around the concept of this hunk of metal or pottery that we will become all consumed in the pursuit of this thing. This one bobble that somehow will justify all the pain and misery we have suffered through for our art. It is the one thing that proves that we are worthy.

I say 'we' because I am an artist over several mediums, and I am just as guilty of chasing the award as pretty much everyone else is. I want that award and praise, I crave it even. It is natural to do so. We are after all only human; human artists who thrive on praise.

The sad thing is that it is all an illusion. As I said art is subjective. Certainly an 'expert' or 'authority' in a field has more 'credibility' in their words, but they are  not the end all be all of your medium. Their opinion is just that; an opinion. You know what they say about opinions right?

I feel that when we get caught up in the vicious pitfall of praise we are cheapening ourselves and our work. It is easy to lose sight of why we are doing this thing in the first place. It is easy to forget why you first picked up a brush, a camera, an instrument, or stepped on stage. We forget the passion that drives us and in that loss of focus, our art suffers.

I don't perform or write for the praise. The praise is a nice by product, but it is not why I do it. It is not why I ever did it. The first time I stepped on stage it was not about the audiences approval, it was about telling them a story. It was about being in that moment under those lights and being the story. Living out those lines so that maybe someone watching would fall in love with the words the way I had. The mere chance that I would evoke something inside of someone was more exhilarating than anything I had ever experienced before.

When I write I do not do it to please others. I want people to like my stories and this blog, but that is not why I write. I write because the words live inside of me and are tearing me apart from the inside so that they might get out. I just want people to read my words, because they were meant to be heard. Not loved, not hated, just heard.

My art exists to exist. I know not everyone will like what I do, and they do not have to. That is the beauty of art and performance. If everyone loved it then it somehow would be cheapened. It would mean that I have nothing else to tell or achieve. I am not trying to appeal to everyone, I am just trying to be honest and true to my art, and in that I should not meet everyones approval.

I am not perfect. I have days when I fall back on my instinctual need for praise and admiration. I still crave those words of approval from those that I look up to. I still want those awards and trinkets that validate these things I do. I am human. Those days are fewer and far between though.

When those feelings of inadequacy start to seep in and I begin to claw at that ideal of recognition for validation I make myself stop and take a step back. I stop and remember the gleeful look on that little girl when I crouched before her and shared the magic of faire with her. I remember the small voice of an almost stranger thanking me for words I typed from the heart. I remember a new friend laughing uproariously at a story that was never meant to be. I remember that what I do matters and is good.

I remember that it is good for me. I remember that I have done the best that I could at that moment and that every day I become better at this thing I do. Every time I try I succeed simply by not giving up.

I do not begrudge the person who does win the awards or praise. I do not think that they are undeserving because that is not true. They are deserving just as I am deserving. Today was just their day. They crave that attention as much as I, and who am I to deny them that? I am no one. I am just an artist with a fragile ego just like they are.

Today I will bask in their triumph and give to them their well deserved praise. Mine might come tomorrow, or it might never come, but that is alright. I will still  be here creating, because that is all I know to do.

If you are an artist, do yourself a favor and stop chasing the praise. Stop and remember why it is you do whatever it is you do. Remember that fire and passion and let that drive you again. You might find it freeing in a way you did not know possible. Let that weight go.

And me?

Well, somewhere someone is better for what I have done, and that is praise enough for me today.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Expectations of the Day

Typically when I go to the office break room I keep my head down, avoid eye contact, and mostly just try and get through it with as minimal interaction with my coworkers as possible. Most days I can make it out with little more than a pleasant smile or a mummbled 'hello'. This makes me extremely happy because I really don't ever have anything to say to random coworkers, especially since most of them are not even from my department. 

Today I was not so lucky and was forced into an incredibly awkward bit of small talk with two women who did not even look remotely familiar. We were all standing around waiting to get water behind a woman filling up a giant jug. 

The two women were chatting casually about Valentines day. They were comparing restaurant choices, flower deliveries, and jewelry selections. It was your basic generic Valentines day prattle. I tried very hard not to engage, but they seemed to want to involve me for some unknown reason. One turned to me and smiled and asked "What are your plans for Valentines day?".

"I don't celebrate Valentines day." I politely replied giving her a tight lipped smile.

Her smile faltered. It was as if I had just told her I didn't breath oxygen. She glanced down to my hand and eyed my wedding ring before looking back to my face. She schooled her expression so she wasn't looking at me like I was an alien, and asked me why.

I sort of shrugged and told her that it just wasn't something that we celebrated. I didn't feel like explaining to this stranger why, I just wanted her to stop talking to me. She sort of gave me a pitying look and nodded. Thankfully it was my turn for water and I made quick work of getting my drink and getting out of there before she could pry into my life any more. 

I get this every year and it kind of drives me crazy. I say that we don't do Valentines day and people look at me as though I am somehow being deprived. Or perhaps they are looking at me as though I am depraved. I think I would get less strange looks if I told people I don't celebrate Christmas. That at least can be reasoned through; religious reasons typically. 

Here is the thing, I am not being deprived of anything. This isn't the husbeast deciding to  be cheap or lazy. This isn't some sort of statement against the system or anything else. I am not saying that Valentines day is a bad thing, or that people who celebrate it are wrong. This is simply a day that does nothing for me.

When I was a kid Valentines day was just a day where we got chocolate, which was AWESOME! I mean free chocolate, who is going to argue with that? It was a lot of pressure though. I was in Elementary school just before they started requiring all kids to give a Valentine to everyone in their class. I am pretty sure my mom made me give one to everyone, which didn't bother me. I was well aware of the fact though that some people, sometimes me, did not get a card from everyone. I also noticed that not everyone got as good of treats as some others. 

You are never too young to feel slighted I guess. 

As I hit my tween years I began to see the other implications of Valentines day, and I quickly began to dread it. This was a day about couples and it served as a moment in time to highlight the fact that you were single. Of course in middle school when girls are just starting to be flooded by the evil hormone, this is particularly brutal. Tween girls can be especially vicious when flaunting that they have a boyfriend and you do not. 

I remember in 6th grade there was this thing the student council did as a fund raiser where you could have a flower sent to someone on Valentines day. The flowers were delivered during class, and if you got one it was super embarrassing because everyone wanted to know who sent it to you. I very unexpectedly got a flower during homeroom from a 7th grade boy that I had a huge crush on, who also happened to be one of my brothers friends. As I was walking down the hall between class this boy found me and I discovered he had gotten a flower which was labeled as being from me. 

Most likely this was a prank perpetrated by my brother, but I had no end of evil tween girls who hated me, so it was really possible one of them had done this. What I did know was that it was an incredibly cruel joke. The boy was so embarrassed by the gesture that he confronted me in the hall, threw the flower at me, shouted at me in the hall (in front of EVERYONE) how he didn't like me, and how I had embarrassed him, and he thought I was pathetic. 

It was pretty well one of the most awful moments of my school career. He was more cruel than he needed to be, but kids that age don't handle emotional things and embarrassment well. At the time I was devastated, but in retrospect I actually don't blame him. I am not saying it was cool, I am just saying I get it. 

I spent the rest of my younger years single on Valentines day. I like many would celebrate it in some form of Single Appreciation Day, and try not to let it bother me that I was single. I was always more than a little disappointed, but I swore that someday I would not be single on Valentines day and it would be amazing.

The husbeast and I had been dating about four months when we got to have our first Valentines day together. I was SUPER excited about this day. I had been waiting my entire life for this it seemed. It was going to be magical and amazing. 

We got all dressed up, he bought me a gorgeous tanzanite and platinum ring, we went to our favorite little Mexican joint for dinner, and finished the night cuddling on the couch watching romantic movies. It was exactly what a Valentines day was supposed to be except that it wasn't actually magical or special. Hell I think it was one of our worst dates ever.

The restaurant had brought in extra tables for the night, and the room was packed so tight that you couldn't hear each other, and you couldn't move without hitting someone with your elbow. The service was super slow because of the sheer volume they were trying to accommodate. The movie was good but it wasn't actually what we wanted to watch and so half way through the husbeast got up and went to play on his computer because he was bored. The whole thing was just so forced that it was ridiculous.

I realized that there was nothing romantic about the day at all. It was all of this pressure and all of these expectations for something that should never be forced. It was only a thing because I had made it a thing in my head. I discovered that it wasn't even a thing I wanted. 

Turns out I much prefer it when I get some daisies on some random Tuesday because he knows they are my favorite and wants me to smile. He likes it when I leave a Reeses cup on his side table for no reason more than I know he likes them. We like a quiet romantic dinner just because we can.

I am not saying that having a day to celebrate your love is bad. I am not saying that people who like Valentines day are wrong. I am not telling anyone how they should or should not enjoy any particular day.

I am just saying that it is not a day that means anything to us. It is just another day that we love each other, and we celebrate that love every day, so there is nothing overtly special about it. Our relationship works on random acts of love with no expectations and we are happy with this. 

So if you are celebrating Valentines day on Sunday I hope it is a wonderful and magical day. If you are not celebrating I hope you have a wonderful and magical day anyways. 

Most importantly I hope that every day is filled with love to celebrate whether it is romantic love or another form love, because love is what is important.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

No Way Out

Owning your own home is a wonderful thing. It is an accomplishment which is seen very much to be part of achieving the elusive American Dream. There is something about knowing that this space is yours that is empowering and freeing all at once. It is wonderful.

Of course the reality of owning your own home is that until you pay off your mortgage you don't own jack shit. All you own is an incredibly large debt that you have absolutely 0 control over when it comes to who handles that debt on the debtors end of things. None whatsoever.

When we bought our first house we were told that our loans would be sold within a month. The company we had worked so hard to get a mortgage through were not going to actually end up being our lenders. In fact the people they sold our loans to would not be our lenders for the entire term of our mortgage. Over the next several years our loans would go bouncing around from lender to lender without any rhyme or reason, and certainly without any input from us.

We have absolutely no control over any of it. If our loan is sold to a company that has bad customer service, are unscrupulous, or have a tendency to cheat their customers, there isn't squat we can do about it. We have to continue to pay our monthly payments and just hope that our mortgage is sold soon to someone who is more tolerable to work with. I have no idea how that is supposed to be right, but that is how it is.

Now we could always refinance our mortgage. We could go to a bank and go through the incredibly arduous task of getting them to do the refi and having them be our lender. That is we can do that if we happen to have the money available to refinance a loan, because you can't just do that sort of thing for free. So if I happen to have the time and money and qualify I can refinance the mortgage and get away from my awful lender to an awful lender that at least I chose.

Until that lender sell my mortgage again, most likely right back to the amoral willfully negligent company I just escaped from.

This is the most fucked up system that is obviously completely built around making the banks money without any regard to the customers that they are supposed to be serving.I as a consumer have little to no recourse against these companies and banks. Anywhere else if I get shitty service I can easily fire that company and move to another provider.

Phone company supplies poor coverage or charges you too much for your data plan? Jump ship and head over to the competition where now days the competition will pay your switching fees. Cable company have abysmal customer service and constant outages? There are a plethora of other TV viewing options available to you from satellite providers to a Netflix Hulu subscription package.

Your mortgage company is forcing you to pay for things they shouldn't and has customer service reps that actively lie to you and are unwilling to help you?
Sucks to be you.

Suddenly owning a home sounds so much less appealing than it once did.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

All lives matter

Times when it is alright to shoot someone:

Is your life in immediate peril?
Is someone actively trying to kill you, assault you, rape you, rob you, do you serious harm, or do any of these things to someone  you are currently in the presence of?
Are you a police officer/soldier/peace officer on active duty and in that moment feel that it is a necessity?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then it is probably alright to shoot someone.

Times when it is not alright to shoot someone:

When someone doesn't agree with you.
When someone does something you don't agree with.
When someone is a different race/religion/sex/sexual orientation/nationality/profession than you.
When someone supports a political or ideological stance that you oppose.

It is never alright to open fire on hospitals, schools, malls, highways, offices, or any other public locations if you are not in an active war zone. News flash, there is not an active war zone in America.

America is plagued with domestic terrorists. Don't agree with me? Well here let me help you a little.

Terrorism, as defined by Merriam Webster dictionary (and this is the 'for kids' entry so that it is in the simplest terms): the use of terror as a means of achieving a goal.

Domestic, again as defined by the for kids section of Merriam Webster dictionary: of, relating to, made in, or done in one's own country.

Shooting a bunch of kids, clinic workers, or innocent bystanders in American suburbs pretty well fits these definitions to a T. Also consider that these are not isolated incidents. This stuff happens on a weekly basis. Police officers shot because people think that cops hate black people. Black people shot because people think they hate police officers. Clinic workers shot because they are pro choice. Muslims shot because they are not Christian. Children shot because someone thought it would make a point.

Well you are right, these acts do make a point by causing panic and terror. These acts don't rally support for the cause, it simply causes reactionary violence. It puts everyone on edge, makes them afraid to leave the house, and in turn causes more hate. It is an endless cycle of violence and hate.

Banning guns is not the answer. Just because guns are not legal does not mean people will stop shooting people. It simply means that the black market for guns will be stronger than it already is. People will still feel the need to own guns to protect themselves and will find a way to get them. People who want to shoot up a school campus will find a way to do it whether the materials are legal or not.

What is the solution to this? Fix your attitude. Never ever condone this sort of violence. Never say words like "They deserved it." because they certainly didn't. Stop hating people who think or are different than you. Stop teaching your children to hate. Accept that you are not the only person in the world and your views and lifestyle are not the only ones out there.

That is how we start to fix this. Remember that ALL lives matter. Stop viewing people as the enemy and treat them as your neighbor and a fellow human being who deserves the same respect and freedom you expect to have. Do not continue to divide yourself because of where you were born, who your parents were, where you do or don't pray, what you eat, or who you are voting for.

Be a good person. Don't be jackasses. Don't sit by quietly and let this happen. Don't just post snarky passive aggressive memes to Facebook, or change your profile picture to something patriotic, or blame a politician or the media (hell stop listening to the media altogether), or shake your head and go on about your day. This accomplishes nothing.

Do something positive. Start a positive dialogue with someone who is different than you. Donate your time to helping others. Give blood. Give money. Give canned goods. Give a smile. Be kind. Be good. Be the best you that you can be. If we all did that then maybe the idea of shooting a stranger wouldn't be something people thought would be a good idea.

I feel like I have said all of this before, but apparently it needs to be said again, so I will continue to say it until it does not need to be said again.

Be good. Stop hating. Be tolerant.


Monday, November 30, 2015

I fought the app and the app won

I tried once again to post from my phone while in the car last night and it once again did not work. I was cold and tired and traffic was awful so I decided not to bother trying again. I just have to face the fact that mobile posting only works on my phone when I am stationary. It is a lesson well learned for me. Learn from me my minions.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


It was 2001, I was in my third year of college, and I found myself with a semester of no shows. For a theater major this was pretty well unheard of. I had this huge chunk of time with nothing to do and I didn't like it one bit.

A large group of my friends worked down at the Ren Faire outside of Houston and I had visited them there over the previous two years and had started to fall in love. I knew I had all of this time coming open and I figured it might be fun to earn some extra cash and do something cool like work for the faire. A few nudges to my friends later and I had a spot in a shop with a couple of them.

Fifteen years later and I am still here. Tonight is the last night of the season and it is bittersweet as always. While the work and long drives are ending, so is the time of being with this strange little group who have worked their way into my hearts and have become my family.

The crew has never just been coworkers and has always been more than friends. These are people I live with for two months of weekends a year. That is a lot of time spent in very close quarters; you either love them or hate them, but you can not escape them.

These people have seen me through many major life events. Some of the crew were my college friends who saw me through my journey of faith, saw me through finding the husbeast, and saw me grow into me. The rest of the old guard not only watched and participated in my wedding, they made it possible. The newer crew even drove close to 6 hours in one day just to help us move.

I know that this ramshackle group of misfits would do anything for us and I would do anything for them. Much like siblings we do not always get along or like one another, but we are family and in the end are there for one another. Heaven forbid you pick on one of us because that will be the last mistake you make.

Tonight will be the last night with my little family on our island of misfit toys and tomorrow we will work hard before once again separating for the year. If we are lucky we will manage to get together a few times in the months between, but those times will not be often enough.

Come next September though we will all make our way down the dusty back roads of site to our shop, climb the steep steps to our bunkhouse, and embrace as family. It will not matter that time has passed because to us time does not matter. We will once again be home and once again I will sleep the peaceful sleep of one who is safe with her own.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A toast

Here is to good friends I never get to see making me forget about how much I despise Black Friday. To people who make me forget that people can be over entitled shita. To people who love me no matter the distance and time. To people who see me.