I have so many hours of things to do and not enough time to do them all. I can’t remember what was happening in the book I’ve been reading every night for the last week. But I also need some grounding right now, so I’m feeling my way through the things I want in my life and the things I don’t want.
I know that I want to craft beautiful and touching and impactful things. I want to make things that people connect with. I want to make things that don’t exist in the world, but should. I want to know that other people think those things should exist, too. And I want to meet those people, and know that we both had this same indescribable and complex yearning, and that that yearning could only be fulfilled by this thing that now exists because I made it. I want to bring joy and wonder and surprise and quietness and magic, and a place to just feel and not think, and to let them have that moment without having to do anything in return.
And I don’t want to be standing there, watching them, as if waiting for a “thank you” or “nice work” or “wow you’re so creative”. I don’t want to even be there at all. I just want the thing I made to be there in the world, and for people to know that someone else wanted the same thing that they wanted, and that it now exists.
I really dislike it when creators are hanging around their work, unavoidably inciting praise from visitors fabricated in the moment out of politeness. Or even worse, they police their work, and try to tell people how to experience it. This is a sure sign of failure. Look, artists: the worst thing you can do to someone who is trying to experience your art is to tell them they are experiencing it wrong. The second worst thing you can do is ask them to tell you, a complete stranger, what their experience was like, or ask them if they “liked it”. How can you possibly expect someone to be vulnerable and open and transformed in one moment, and then force them to make up some trite compliment or response to you in the next moment? You are not your art. They want to meet your art, talk to your art, hug it and ask it where it’s been all their life. But your art is not you. Don’t make them talk to you, don’t make them talk to anyone. Don’t make them halt this process of intricate emotions and memories and feelings just to cram them into polite and logical words and sentences. Just let them have their moment of openness, their vulnerability to something powerful, their transformation.
I love talking about art. I love digging in to the new emotional shapes and colors that art creates in me, and seeing if others’ emotions are the same shape and color. But this is processing, and analyzing, and comparing, and words. The conversation is not the experience. We crave the experience way more than we crave the conversations about experiences. I can’t tell someone to be joyful, or surprised, or contemplative, or wondrous. But I can give someone these feelings, someone I’ve never met, in ways they never expected. That’s what I want.