Shifting Gears [7]

Making Good Art

eyelash
After I shared the picture above with a friend, she asked, “How much does your mascara cost?”

I replied, “17.50.”

Then she said, “In that case, you can cry as long as you want.”

We both laughed because I needed to laugh.

I cried this year, silent tears and loud tears, in the privacy of my bedroom.

And I nearly gave up, although I had begun the year high on momentum.

In his 2012 keynote address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, author, Neil Gaiman, dispensed advice on a career in the arts. His advice transcends art and spills into life.

 

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art . . . Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

 

I cried in January, February, and March. My tears fell from April through September, like the rainy season in Nigeria, a deluge that began without warning. I determined to have an early dry season beginning in October. To ease my weariness, I planned to write short stories, flights of fantasy about love and technology. It worked. October looked promising until the mid-way point.

One Thursday, after a wailing session, I stopped deriving childlike pleasure from tasting the saltiness of tears and runny snot and reminded myself, I had a story to write. I shot an earnest plea to Heaven and brought out the notes I made as a friend recounted her experience on the train. Then I zoned out everything and entered the place where stories come to me.

Before I published Bluetooth Lottery, I gave it to a friend to read. I watched him chuckle while he read and stopped holding my breath. This story, I thought, might resonate with readers. My blog posts that create the most emotional resonance, going by likes and comments, are posts I wrote from places of desperate despair or posts about the tattoos in my soul.

 

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

 

Are Gaiman’s words about making your art to be taken literally?

I heard someone say that when you speak from your head, you talk to people’s heads, but when you speak from your heart, you talk to people’s hearts. After a writer shared a heartbreaking ordeal with me, I asked her if she was going to write about it.

“No,” she shrugged, “but you know how these things work, right? Our experiences seep into our writing and wet the page.”

I nodded.

Tears became my friend this year and I did not resent her intrusion into small spaces. I realized firstly that the demons that troubled me were not new. They were conquered foes, old fears in shiny wrapping paper. Secondly, to borrow from the title of Binyavanga Wainaina’s memoir, one day I will write about this place, this field of tears. I will gather my tears and then I will sit and make good art.

 

As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with pools.
– Psalm 84:6

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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43 thoughts on “Shifting Gears [7]

  1. This spoke to me in a timely way. There were years in mid-life that I filled with tears, realizing finally that they were not a sign of weakness, because I was still coping while crying. In fact, I realized they were just a way of letting out pain and probably why women live longer than men, because we usually are allowed some tears. Becoming career women probably will end that.
    But about 17 years ago on one day my youngest son and his wife discovered that their 2 year old was very autistic and the baby in the womb had a cleft palate and lip. I went to be there for them and will never forget their faces . to be continued.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Had a writers’ group here tonight, so didn’t finish my comment. Somehow that night of such sorrow stopped my tears. I really never cried after that. I think at some level, I was afraid if I let myself let all that sorrow flow up, I’d never be able to stop crying. I am struggling with health issues and my beautiful 16 year old granddaughter has been in the emergency room three times in six days from blacking out from a migraine. She has not made it through a school day the other days without having to come home and take meds that knock her out. This is the granddaughter that has had 17 surgeries for cleft palate and lip and whose nose has had to have cartilage transplanted three times, but the cartilage always melts and her nose flattens on one side. She can’t have bone transplanted until she has stopped growing. The last surgery left her nostril more scarred than ever before. She became despondent and over dosed. Being hospitalized several times for depression, she had to drop out of the accelerated high school she attended. Her older sister is attempting college classes thanks to years of therapies of all sorts for her Autism. She is struggling. Their eleven year old sister fell at school a year ago and had a serious concussion that still has residual effects that have limited her in several ways. Attempting to help them last weekend, my husband and I took all the sisters except the one having the migraines to a large mall for a movie and lunch at the Aquarium restaurant to video all the amazing fish. We then shopped for presents for their sick sister. I made a bad choice and lost the seven year old in the Mall. We found her fairly quickly and though frightened, she was all right. After all the girls were returned safely, it hit me that I could have lost my son’s one undamaged child, partly because of my age and simply wearing out before the day was over. They live an hour away from us and it is getting hard for us to drive there and back in the same day. But they have no other family to help them. I finally cried for several hours after all those years of sorrow and fear being locked inside. But I did stop. And I am persevering. Tears are not weakness, they are therapy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear Eileen, such difficult experiences for your family to go through. I like what you say about tears being a way to let out the pain and being therapy. I have found it to be true too.

        A friend went through some heartbreaking experiences, but she couldn’t cry. She used to say, “I have a ball of pain inside me. I wish I could cry like you and let it out.”

        I pray that your family sees light at the end of the tunnel and that you can draw strength from crying together. Thanks for sharing. I’m encouraged that sharing my story helped you in a timely way.

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  2. I am not exactly sure why this resonates so much with me. Honestly. Many great stories are born from pain, be they visual or literary. I am glad most of what brought tears where shots from the past, weakened, I believe, by the healing power of Time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Time can help as it allows us reflect and glean another perspective.
      The knowledge that it’s possible to birth beautiful stories from my tears fortified me.

      I’m glad this resonates with you. I hope you find out why 🙂

      Like

    1. I’m happy that somethings about this post resonate with you. I’m not sure what you mean by the ‘first part’. Do you mean making good art through thick and thin?

      Thanks Tony. Enjoy the festive season!

      Like

  3. For as long as I can remember as a Creative, I’ve worked through the pain either caused by not being paid for my work or some guy…: sometimes this has created good work, sometimes it hasn’t but I thoroughly believe as you’ve said that to really connect with your audience artistically or creatively, you need to bare yourself and be cool with your boobs flapping against the wind ( :

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Has working through the pain been therapeutic for you?
      Vulnerability in my view is risky. But yes, when done ‘well’ can connect writers and their audiences.
      Lol@ cool with your boobs flapping against the wind 🙂

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  4. Nice! Such beautiful, brave & evocative stuff Timi, thanks for sharing. As a very wise man once said “Tears are the cleansing of our soul”. May 2016 brings you much laughter, joy and an abundance of beautiful art 😄. Merry Christmas! Warmest, De.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The wise man observed correctly, even though sometimes one has to take paracetamol for the headache that may accompany wailing! XD

      May 2016 be all that you dreamed and more. Merry Christmas!
      Thanks De.

      Like

  5. Hi Timi,

    I knew you wrote this, too many good things about it.

    The picture reminded me of how carefully I put food into my mouth when wearing pricey lipstick. Lol

    As I read, I wondered why your tears came. I hope comfort and reassurance have found you and that the air you breathe remains heavily scented with both.

    The early months of 2015 were hard for me. They say tears cleanse the soul, well if they truly did, then I needed every drop of the just-as-salty Atlantic Ocean, even at the risk of upsetting the Mammy Water lounging within it.

    I cried and reached the point when my fears said a menacing “shhh” to my tears. Old fears and perky new ones gripped my heart so coldly; I was too stunned to even cry.

    Perhaps it is the loud tears rather than the quiet ones that do the cleansing business. One would be too exhausted from all that wailing to allow any fears remain.

    Then mid-year, it all went away. I found refreshment; a change of environment and a creative outlet that brought me newness.

    I nearly exploded laughing @ “Cat exploded?” Yes I agree, make good art, regardless. We might as well just get on with it. If one keeps moving, they somehow become numb to their pain.

    I believe that sometimes the lows release a rawness inside us that inspires us to make remarkably good art during hard times. I like that Neil Gaiman also reminds us to make good art on the days that are good too. For me, the lows fuel creative release and the highs give me a clear mind to polish what’s been let out and look at things more objectively.

    You observed correctly. I find that readers relate better to writings that reveal one’s vulnerability. It makes the writer more relatable, just as human as the readers. You once told me, in response to a comment I left on one of your posts, “We’re doing this life together. When we trade stories, we find we’re not alone.” It is true. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol @pricey lipstick XD Someone asked me what special properties a $28.50 mascara has!

      I’m glad to hear that although the beginning part of your year was hard, a creative outlet brought you newness mid-year.

      Yeah, the ‘ugly’ tears are good for the soul 🙂 Lol@ mammy water!

      I experienced disappointments that left me gutted, not different from the rest of humanity. Here’s the thing though, when you weather many storms and see the hand of Providence, it fills you with quiet confidence- you know you can face tomorrow.

      Vulnerability is risky, but the gains can outweigh the pains, if done right. I think that sometimes we read to escape the drudgery of life, we want to take flights of fantasy. Other times we want a protagonist like us; one we can root for to win. I hope this story is a door of hope for someone.

      Nedoux, let’s continue to make good art! Thank you and a very merry Christmas to you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @ Special qualities. XD Ah! With one coat, you can see the future.

        What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Indeed, you know you can face tomorrow.

        Yes, let’s. You are most welcome. Thank you too!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Gratitude, focus, and anchor. How true! I heard someone say the only reason men fail is because of broken focus. I think gratitude helps us in the ‘battle’ to keep our focus.

      Thank you so much! A happy new year to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My goodness. I’m truly sorry it has been a tearful year. We’ve all been there and yet it’s a private experience. At this same time, not only is the end of the year a good time to reflect, as you have done, it’s a beautiful time to look ahead, as well.

    I used to get frustrated at myself because I cry easily and it seems, often, too. But a friend of mine once told me something I will never forget, “the earth needs your tears” and that has given me such strength and comfort and most of all, permission to cry.

    Make art! Love the Gaiman quote.

    Happy holidays, Timi!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, we are both ‘criers’ 🙂 I cry easily and often (in private), it is one of my strengths. I don’t understand: the earth needs your tears, but the saying has a comforting ring to it.

      Aw, don’t be sorry about my ‘tearful’ year. I’m excited about the things my tears will birth!

      I like the way Neil Gaiman compressed the essence of his address into a catchy phrase: make good art! Easy to remember and sharp enough to get one going.

      Merry Christmas & a happy new year! Thanks Lani!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thanks Benn. Some major disappointments and then unexpected twists and turns- you know the stuff we all deal with in differing degrees.

      This post magnifies just one aspect of my year to drive my point home. By any standard, I’ve accomplished plenty this year… in spite of the tears … I made good art 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Uju, that’s what I hope someone takes away from this post; not that I cried bucketfuls, but that I made art through it all, and I plan on redeeming this year’s tears in future 😉
      Thanks.

      Like

  7. Very evocative write…..serious Lol @ “childlike pleasure from tasting the saltiness of tears and runny snot”! Brings back memories…

    When I cry, which I suspect is probably more than most men my age & stature, it’s quite deep and for long; can hardly stop. But I always emerge strangely energised and light hearted. I feel cleaner and expressed in a squeezed out kind way.

    May you have an unequal measure of laughter and delight henceforth.

    Like

    1. Ah, the power of a good cry, snot et al XD Seriously, I feel you.

      I’ve found that I can turn my tears into songs, beautiful lyrical pieces of writing with heart. Now, that fills me with hope and delight and causes me to laugh. Amen to your prayer. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I actually jumped to the end from around the middle to see who wrote this. I was very surprised to realize that it was you, Timi. It’s a degree of vulnerability that I’ve come to not expect from you. Please forgive my saying so.

    Life and its vagaries. Every time something happens to you or someone you know that shows you how easily life changes there is hardly a more honest reaction than a heavy sigh. I’m sorry for everything that caused that rain this year. We can hope that the result of all that watering is a bumper harvest. I personally, because of my faith in Christ, take for granted that every planting season will be watered with our tears but “we will come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves”.

    I could spin you quite the tale of my own tears, some of it you well know, some you might not know that well. Let it be enough to say that if it had not been for the hand that held me all these years I would be broken beyond repair by now. I even feel that sense of despair these days, that feeling like nothing could ever make up for all of this anymore. I think of all the things that I expect to gain when the harvest comes and it just is not enough anymore. But when I took another bottle of tears to him today, there was that silent assurance that it will all be worth it. In Christ, loss is ever preparation for a new outpouring of life.

    I just read Gaiman’s speech and I love it. I concur with much of it (my only discomfort was the part about lying to get jobs, #shrugs) and with the bit you quoted. It has been my experience that the best things I have done have come from daring to open myself up. I believe in decorum, in the need to maintain the sanctity and sacredness of some things, but I also believe that wearing masks and attempting to keep all of yourself covered up and protected all the time will stifle your soul and kill all that you are and can be.

    I built everything I’ve built thus far out of the pinches, aches and tears in my life. The good stuff serves to help me look beyond the moment of the pain but the material for building has been the hurt. May we both always be able to do the same, Timi. Amen.

    Thanks for sharing your tears today.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed many parts of Gaiman’s speech are inspirational. He says that you get work however you get work. He admits that he lied to get work in his day, something that could be easily checked today… I guess it was his way of telling the audience, don’t try this at home 😉

      You’re right, the tears we have shed are not in vain. I think the principle of making good art helps us turn our wilderness into fruitful fields as we learn to focus. Faith helps us see the invisible and keep going.

      Lol@ not expecting vulnerability from me 🙂 No worries. Vulnerability can be risky. Here’s a quote by George Verwer that I like:

      Leaders who admit their vulnerabilities, and even their failures, walk with a limp. But I suppose that’s what makes it possible for hurting people to catch up with us to ask for help.

      Thank you Odii!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is deep. I salute your courage, perseverance and spirited gut. I am drawing strength from these posts cos I’m going through something like that currently. I dont know myself anymore, i am just floating in the cloud of unconsciousness,i pray i alight cheerdully. Guys are not raised to cry anyway.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol @guys aren’t raised to cry 🙂 Pity, I don’t know if this is true for all, but a ‘good’ crying session gets 80% of my frustration out!

      Isn’t pain of some sort one of the common denominators of our humanity? I pray you find strength and get help to turn your desert into springs. Godspeed!

      Thank you.

      Like

    1. There was that nagging feeling as I wrote, that this post might be misinterpreted. I’m not miserable, lol.

      I think Gaiman is on to something. His words resonated with me- he was saying no matter what’s going on around you, focus on your art or work, which is what I did, exceptionally well, too 🙂

      His call for artists to be authentic and vulnerable, is what I’m not altogether sure about, the vulnerable part, at least. Yet it is those blog posts where I’m vulnerable that create the most emotional resonance it would seem …

      Thanks Nancy!

      Like

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