I started out as a curious and creative child. As a pre-teen, I became obsessed with fashion magazines and fashion models. I dreamed of designing the perfect haute couture line of clothes just for me, and everyone would love me for my beauty, talent and exquisite taste. In the real world, I was a plump, flat-chested girl, living just barely above the poverty line. I could not sew. I could not draw. Nonetheless, I spent hours filling page after page of my mother's notepads with blue-inked images of my fashion vision'.
Then I met other kids that had talent. They could draw, they could paint, and to make matters worse, they were thin, well-dressed and confident. I stopped drawing at home. In art class, I barely took part and hid my efforts in shame. I did not bring my 'artwork' home to my parents. Instead, I read a lot and took up writing stories and poetry.
For a long time, writing sufficed. I grew up, raised children, worked in bars, earned a degree and buried a husband. I never set the world on fire, but through it all, writing stuck. Then the pandemic came and my concentration left.
I had made previous forays into the hallowed world of visual art. I experimented with clay and took some stabs at collage, but I am an impatient chicken and struggle with confidence. I gave up quickly. I wanted to feel and behave the way I thought an artist would — with expansive gestures and a quirky type of intuitive confidence. Instead, I stared in horror at my brushes like they were venomous snakes. I believed if I could not produce perfect work in my first attempts; I failed.
The negative messages we incorporate as young people soon become our own inner voice. Mine told me I could not paint and I could not write. It told me I lacked talent and must not attempt artistic expression, or face the consequence of abject humiliation. Art of any kind was simply not for me. Whether a blank page or an empty canvas, the sheer weight of placing my marks down scared the bejesus out of me.
Then I turned sixty and grew up. Nothing I say, write or paint will invite accolades or disaster. I am but a small, short-haired woman, with reading glasses and pet chickens. I am utterly inconsequential to the wider world — but I'm fortunate enough to be loved back by the people and critters that I love. So I'm going to write and I'm going to get stuck in the glue and the paints and the cut-up bits of magazines and tissue paper and make some stuff.
What could possibly go wrong?