Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cry Havoc!

While I often equate them, writing and art are two entirely different processes for me. Although they are both necessary avenues for me to travel, they take me to separate, disparate places. I can write amid the chaos in my head. In fact, that's the only way I can write, or maybe it's the reason why I write - that search for order in the anarchy. There is comfort in taking a million ideas and thoughts and forming something concise.

Making art is different. Vastly. It's almost the opposite of writing. Art is the acknowledgment of things just beyond my periphery, intimidating, disquieting things, massive things that could never bow in obeisance. Looking at these things full on is as... dare I say? yes, I do... as dangerous (and frightening) as trying to kill a charging rhinoceros with a spork.

There comes a time in the day when everything goes silent. Words have been written. Chores (or at least the internal nagging to do them) have been put to rest. Details have been attended to. Then comes the quiet, and in that quiet the Muses whisper in irrefutably seductive tones. Everything else narrows to the tiniest pin point. It's not focus, not really. It's allowing. No. That's not right. How can you allow something that you can't say no to in the first place? It's acquiescing - granting admittance to things somewhat feared and revered just before they break down the doors.

I say all that as if it is a horrible thing. It isn't, except that in some ways it is, because it is always a complete unknown. What begins as an idea, a small dot of color, segues and morphs into something terrifically different than what I thought was charging the gates. At the end comes an exhilarated exhaustion, a gentle closing of the gates of which I seem to be the keeper. With it comes a shaky knowledge that I've somehow done what's right, what's right for me, at least.

Writing is about finding myself. Art is about losing myself.
Writing is about taming. Art is about loosing the wild beast.

You might be asking, "Which do you prefer?" I don't know that I could have (or handle) one without the other. But if pressed to choose between the two - may all the gods, muses, and universal gewgaws forbid - I would choose art.

I would choose art for no other reason than that I'm addicted to the rush. That and it requires little, if any, explanation. Art speaks its own language and is individually translated. I want my words understood, desperately so most of the time. But my art... it stands alone and says what it will. Even if it's misunderstood, there it still stands, as if it wasn't really my voice to begin with. As if it is a rhinoceros, preparing to charge, staring down a young lass who is armed only with a spork.

"Likewise be all manner of beasts, when they be brought into the field and cried havoc, then every man to take his part."
~Grose, History of the English Army

And so, the shaking, but defiant girl musters everything within her and hollers, "Havoc!"


  1. i love the untrammeled reaches, Barb...thanks for pulling back the curtain on yours. beautifully said, my friend.

    "Up with Havoc!"

    Jacob Nordby

  2. i'm once again reminded how much we are alike. i'm thrilled you wrote this - it says it perfectly.

    There was a time, though i still made small amounts of art here and there, that i was mainly a writer. In fact, i was certain that would be my calling and most likely, my career. At some point, though, it felt like i was losing my connection to the written page, and more and more, what i had to say didn't have any words. i still write, but not as much as i once did. The art satisfies something so deep, it helps hinge the bolts on the doors of the unknown. It attempts to pin down the dreamy and foggy ideas from dreams and visions. And it gives me a release like nothing else.

  3. Well said, Barb. Or rather, well written. I think that art can pull down the really massive ideas, the entire fucking planets that are indescribable in their immensity and complexity. Art can wrest them from the inky black expanse of space ...and give them form and shape and color. Then, it can just let them be, let them hover in front of the viewer in all of their living splendor, looking back at them and showing them pieces of themselves that perhaps they had forgotten. Writing is different, indeed. Writing is more of a challenge because we have all come to a consensus on what each word means, or so we like to think. Words are stone and art is light. However, and I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir with this, I sometimes enjoy the challenge of creating something akin to art with such a primitive tool as language. The real knack, I think, is to TRICK the reader. Our mind expects a certain thing from a sentence or a paragraph and so we tend to read ahead and assume a great deal. If you throw in some verbal lemon grass and interesting textures, the reader is forced to stop and say "Hey, wait a minute, what the fuck is going on here?" Hopefully in that moment you can spark something that will light a fire or trigger a circuit. We're all talking about the same things, we just don't have the words to describe them. All we can do is put up a million sign posts that say "Over there, that's what I'm talking about, over there!"


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