Remember that old nursery song: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt
I wish it were really that easy. Careless words throughout my life have partially molded me into who I am today, for better or worse. The desire to be loved and accepted made me hide parts of myself (even from myself) for years. They were parts too dear to expose to my family, who always made me feel like a bug being smooshed between 2 pieces of glass under a microscope. I wonder to this day who I could have become if it weren't for this need for love. It was so strong that I became whoever they wanted me to be...
Now, here I am, 50 years old and just beginning to figure out who I really am. (since all the people whose love I was striving for are dead now.)
Lisa Sonora came out with a very thought-provoking blog post http://www.lisasonora.com/blog/creating-things-dont-yet-exist/
this week, and it really caused a lot of emotion in me, so I thought I would write a bit about it here. Her fiance' wants to open a cafe, and one of his “friends” said something to the effect of: “Why would you do that when there are so many cafes already?”
(I say “friend” in parenthesis because I don't believe that anyone who says things like that could be a real friend.)
It brought up so much anger in me. Others resonated with my anger and requoted me, etc. It felt good to be understood, because I sometimes feel like I have PTSD around this issue of my creativity and the opinions/judgments of others. My main defense has always been to pull way into my shell, barely sharing anything with anybody until it's ready to be birthed. But I know this isn't healthy and I wish there was another way. What I really mean is: I wish that I had an answer that would put wet blankets in their place. And I also wish I had a magic power for finding like-minded souls who understand and accept eccentricities, and visa versa. Even comments like “Where do you find the time to be so creative?” get to me. It's as if they are looking at the way I spend my time and judging it as wasted somehow. Since creativity is so much who I am, it feels like they are saying that I don't matter because I spend my time “frivolously.” If you're not striving to produce something that will get you paid, then there must be something wrong with you.
It makes me mad because I have been hearing stuff like this all my life from “well-meaning” family and friends. Each time it has chipped away at the core of my being a bit more. I wish I hadn't allowed it to happen, but I am always so shocked when someone puts down my creativity, that I never seem to fight back. I think of what I would like to say later after it's too late.
I loved this feisty response from a woman named Susann:
- I don’t know what it is that makes the Critics the way they are, but after years of listening to them, I’ve gotten to the point where if I do tell someone about something I’m planning, at the VERY FIRST negative word, I hold both hands up to stop them and I say: “Nope. Sorry. If you don’t have anything positive and supportive to say about this, I don’t want to hear another word.”
This knocks people back and they often get very defensive. The standard response is often a variation of: “I’m just being realistic”. To which I reply: “well, it might be your reality, but it’s not mine.” And I keep it up. At every attempt they make to continue the conversation, I just cut them off.
People don’t deal well with this, but I’m of an age now where I don’t care. Nobody has the right to treat me OR my creative ideas badly, and I simply won’t tolerate it. I don’t even feel a need to be polite. I don’t know why we should be expected to simply stand there meekly while someone shreds our dreams with unsolicited criticism under the guise of helpful advice or realistic cautions. We get written off as prima donnas, of course, and silly dreamers who refuse to listen to good advice or face reality and are “obviously” going to fail, but I just smile now, knowing I’m not going to fail and that success truly is the best revenge.
My advice: keep your dreams and plans very, very close to your own heart and be very, very careful about who you share them with. Your mother might love you, but she might not be the best person to tell you’re writing a book. Your best friend might have been your BFF since grade 2, but she might not be as supportive as you want when you tell her you’re quitting your job and moving to New York to follow your dream of being a street mime. If & when the time comes when you do have to admit what you’re doing, do not hesitate to protect yourself with the ferocity of she-bear protecting her cub. At the first word of unsolicited advice, say “oh, thanks, but it’s all under control. Now, what are *you* up to these days?” Learn to deflect, obfuscate, change the subject and, if necessary, lie outright. This isn’t just your creative dream, it’s your very life-essence.
We have been saving up to buy a used car, and so far I have been unable to contribute much to the car fund. I stopped by the music store where my guitar pick earrings have been displayed for the past 5 years, to see if any had sold. When I asked about them, I received a very dismissive attitude from the guy behind the counter. He said they took them off display because they weren't selling, and he could not even remember where they'd been stored. I said “I wish someone would have called me so I could come and get them.”
He said “This with take awhile” with a tone like he was going to have to go search the dumpster or something.
When my display was finally found, it was a mess. They hadn't even bothered to place it into a bag for safe keeping when they stored it, so several earrings were missing or broken. I mentioned that, and the guy said “Apologies.” It didn't feel like he was at all sorry, though. It was just a word people say when they've been caught being a jerk. I was in too much shock to say anything more.
It's not as if I consider myself to be a jewelry-maker at the core of my being. But I do consider myself to be a creative soul with good ideas. Guitar pick earrings were a good idea, and I sold half a dozen pair in the music store, and several at concerts over the years. To add insult to injury: I purchased all of the picks for the earrings from THEIR STORE! I'm so hurt and angry, I don't know what to do. I thought about writing a bad yelp review, but I figured people would just think I was a whiny artist complaining about something that has nothing to do with the music biz. When you put yourself out there, your time, your supply costs, your good ideas, and then someone who is supposed to be on your side completely disrespects you, IT HURTS, A LOT! It's hard to recover from, whether it's music, art, or any kind of creative endeavor. It becomes difficult to want to bother sharing ideas after a blow like this. I could say “Oh, they are just unhappy people and I should feel sorry for them.” But I can't, and I don't. There is a thing called the Golden Rule, which I try to live by. I think business owners should have to live by it too, don't you? It's about basic kindness and respect. They treated me like someone who doesn't matter, like someone who would never have the cash to buy an instrument from them, like someone who doesn't have friends who are musicians. Why do people make such assumptions, I wonder? Why do people think it's ok to treat someone this way? What would you do about it if it were you?
Perhaps something like this has happened to you, and you feel angry too. If you're at all compelled to write them a letter, here's their yelp page:
I think I will be sending them a personal letter, even though there is a big part of me who says “What's the point?” People like this don't care about their fellow human beings. If they did, they would have called the phone number prominently posted on my display to have me retrieve my creations, or they would have atleast stored my display in a bag for safe keeping. Shouldn't I be able to leave my creations with them and expect them to be taken care of? Perhaps some ray of truth will leak through to touch their frozen hearts. Meanwhile, I am licking my wounds and feeling rather hopeless about the human race.
Oh yeah, I was there for their grand opening in 2009 and bought a tshirt. I would wear it proudly and tell people my earrings were for sale there. I'm turning that tshirt into a rag for spring cleaning, for starters. Maybe I'll even clean my toilet with it. That'll show 'em! Haha! TMI? Haha!
How do you heal your creative wounds?
In a way, it's like having a broken heart...
I'm praying for God to comfort me.