I make a big deal about being brave. That’s because I have a lot of anxiety about certain things:
LIST OF BIG THINGS I HAVE MAJOR ANXIETY ABOUT
- My voice
- Being in videos
- Showing art
- Dead clowns reanimating.
- People I love dying.
Anyway, I’m pretty open about the things that make me nervous and over on Facebook, I’ve been having Be Brave Fridays where I do something that I am uncomfortable about and encourage others to be brave, too.
So, what I’m really uncomfortable about is showing my art. That’s because of a couple things:
- It’s really personal
- I’m not trained
- My mother.
As I told a lovely woman that I met on Friday night, “My mom was amazing, but she had really defined notions of what our family could and couldn’t do.”
The lady said, “Oh, I get this. My mother is the same way. I get this.”
According to my Mother, If we were going to create things, it was supposed to be:
- Meat-based meals
She said to me on multiple occasions when I was little, “Nobody in this family has an artistic bone in their body. None of us can draw a straight line.”
But I really wanted to draw straight lines and make comics and paintings. I knew there was no point though.
None of us can draw a straight line.
I spent years and years wishing I could draw or paint. I spent years and years wishing I could make images without words.
Not an artistic bone.
When I was divorcing, I gave in and bought paint. I would stay up late into the night, painting. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was the only way I could think to get my emotions out into the world so that they wouldn’t fester inside of me.
It didn’t matter that they sucked because nobody would see them. I would paint over canvasses because I didn’t have enough money to buy more canvas. I would paint on newspaper pages (not a good idea), on the backs of old-fashioned notebooks, on anything.
Not an artistic bone in my body?
It seemed pretty true.
I became a writer and I wrote novels, but sometimes I would still get these images in my head. I would need to get them out.
So, I’d trudge down into the basement and paint.
It’s cold in the basement. The kitty litter box is in the basement. It’s easy to hide down in that basement. I hid.
Sometimes when I get stuck in a story, or can’t work out its theme, I paint.
Sometimes when I get lost inside my emotions, I paint.
A woman said to me on Friday, “You wrote all these books, too? I have never met anyone who is good at both before.”
And I laughed and was all self-disparaging and said, “You still haven’t.”
She gave me a look and said, “Oh, honey. Yes, I have.”
Oh, honey. Yes, I have.
Even writing that now? It makes me get all teary-eyed.
Painting is the places inside of me where I can’t make words work, where I can’t get things to express themselves via writing, so I have to go deeper.
There are places that are deeper than words.
It’s hard to show that to the world especially when:
- You haven’t been trained
- Nobody in your family can draw a straight line
- There’s not an artistic bone in your body.
- You live in a world where being vulnerable and authentic is often derided and scorned.
I started Be Brave Fridays because I was tired of hiding. I posted paintings even though I was positive not one single person would be kind. But people were kind and one person, Aymie Walsh (co-owner of CoeSpace in Bangor) sent me a message and asked me if I wanted to be in an Art Walk.
An Art Walk is a thing where people go from site to site and check out different artists. It all takes place during a set time period in a location like a city or downtown.
When Aymie sent me that message? I thought she might be punking me. I texted my daughter and she said, “Do it! Do it! Do it!”
My daughter is the bravest human I know. She’s faced all her fears now. She’s a field artillery officer. She went to Harvard. She’s jumped off buildings. She’s survived me being her mother.
So, I said yes.
I said yes even though I kept hearing those phrases, wrapping themselves around my heart, over and over again.
Nobody in this family has an artistic bone in their body. None of us can draw a straight line.
I was an anxious wreck all last Friday. I had one of those existential life crisis moments where I didn’t know why I bothered to exist at all. I was a punk all day. I had so many fears.
Then we put up all my paintings on the beautiful white walls of CoeSpace. And something inside me shattered.
This could not be real.
I expected nobody to come. I expected people to mock me to my face. I expected to hear those same sentences only slightly twisted around.
You don’ t have an artistic bone in your body. You can’t even draw a straight line.
What are you trying to do?
Here’s the thing though. Nobody said those words to me.
But here’s the bigger thing. Even if they had said those words? They don’t get to make those words real. Only I get to make those words real. Only I get to have that power over who I am and what I want to be.
That’s something I have to learn over and over again in my life. That’s something that I have to remember and paint through because that realization? It’s a heart realization. It’s a soul realization. And it’s too big for words.
There are much better things to tell ourselves, to sing into our stories, and to bind our hearts with.
Oh, honey. Yes, you have.
Those words made me braver. Aymie made me braver. My poor, sweet family that dealt with me all day? They made me braver.
I want you to be brave, too. Go after the person you want to be, okay? Sing out your story in the melodies that you want to hear. Become.
You can. You have. You will.
Over and over again.
IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!
My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.