Meme Week. OR: Writing out a “creative autobiography.”

Lesson #23409824098 About Blogging: Don’t promise to do something unless you do that task in that entry. Otherwise, it signs you up for failure, which is bad. Basically, we’ll wait until I’m more reliable and not prone to be taken for spontaneous adventures on the weekend. Rather than bemoan the fact that there are no Montana stories to post, however, I will attempt to live up to one promise I did make: the Twyla Tharp questionnaire on creative  biography. I’m not going to just jot down 33 questions in one go, though, oh no — what kind of blogger do you take me to be? No, I’m trying for actually posting five days a week, which means that I’m going to cut these questions up into little digests — duh. And so, here we go: Allison Brown’s Creative Autobiography, Part 1 of (presumably) 5.

Will it make me realize stuff about myself? Maybe. Will it make for good blogging? That is also a great question. Are we about to find out? Hell yeah we are.

ONE: What is the first creative moment you remember?

I have a few, depending on your frame of reference. In terms of making things: my art classes at Children’s Park, which is best described in polite language* as the crucible of my formative years. No matter how miserable my memories of the place may be, I will concede that they offered a great deal of educational opportunities in the early days of my experiences there. But even then, I remember feeling as if art was that thing that people foisted upon me as the thing I did well. Part of the reason why I resisted a career in studio art? I thought people expected me to do that, and that sounded terrible. It was only when I was in a place where everyone else was good, if not better, than myself that I started to love it for the sake of doing it.

But even before that, there was playing make-believe in the realm of my rose-printed room, making castles out of scarves and forging treks from old homelands to new. I was always fascinated by journeys, now that I remember it, whether it be the Underground Railroad or Russian Jews running from pogroms into the welcoming arms of Ellis Island. You would think that I would be a child that was inherently interested in the land of fantasy and magic, but I was only charmed by the idea of others making new lives out of rags and hard work. Interesting, now that I come to think of it — and really, if I’m being honest, I hadn’t thought about it until today.

TWO: Was there anyone there to witness or appreciate it?

I think so, in the case of Paragraph One. My mother was (and is) one of those crazy types in the sense that she was mad encouraging — and critical. She’d tell me how fantastic whatever it was that I’d make but also tell me why such and such wasn’t working correctly, mostly because I asked her why my picture wouldn’t look like hers. I still have some of my elementary school pottery, for Pete’s sake — and all because my mother kept it.

Paragraph Two, though? No, and that was because I hoarded my pretend. My imagination would make worlds so elaborate that I would narrate everything out loud, dancing and exploring and the like because I believed I was there in the moment. But I knew, even at that tender moment, that this was something I could only understand. As such, I was embarrassed and kept it to myself. This is something that I’m thankful I shed in my older years. If there’s anything collaborative writing taught me, it’s this: sharing elaborate pretend worlds with others is okay with the right people. The wrong ones were all around me as a kid though, and so I hid them — or tried. After all, everyone has his or her embarrassing slip-up now and again, and I certainly had my fair share. Fortunately, they were mostly with family. Mostly.

THREE: What is the best idea you’ve ever had?

Accepting that my failure at Purdue was valuable for knowing what not to do with my entire life.

FOUR: What made it great in your mind?

The above may not be inventive or anything involving my aesthetic ability, but it put me on my present track: Allison Brown, junior painter. It made me realize that the safe track is not the right track, that risking the fact that I will be hungry and cold and never secure in my paychecks for the rest of my life is better than withering away in a profession that stifles my heart and my soul. It sounds idealistic, fanciful even, but I’ve seen what doing something you hate for a steady paycheck does for your emotional well-being. It makes you a miserable cuss towards everyone around you, a terrible person to be. I’m still a volatile person right now, I think, and someone whose depression is always risking to burst to the surface from my mismanagement of stress and bottling everything until I’m bound to explode, but I know that I finally am doing something I love. It doesn’t grow old — and thank God for that.

FIVE: What is the dumbest idea?

In direct relation with 3 and 4: trying to convince myself that graphic design was my major.

SIX: What made it stupid?

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that it’s something that, in the words of a very wise woman, nourishes your soul. I knew it was bad the very day that I sat in the Design 3 studio and knew, with sinking dread, that I would hate every moment of my existence in that room. The fear of doing something just because I was good at it dominated my indecision RE: studio arts, ironically enough; I thought that by engaging in a design path, I would be able to be artistic whilst still getting a day job. Ha! If I could actually sell something, maybe I could be a graphic designer; as is, I hardly was able to sell Girl Scout cookies. Fucking Girl Scout cookies, folks. If that’s not a sign that this is not the career path for me, I don’t know what is.

SEVEN: Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?

You know how everyone professes that artists live in cardboard boxes? You also know how scary it is to sometimes have to return your groceries to the supermarket? Imagine those two ideas converging on each other when you’re trying to make your Big Decisions in college. I’ve had embarrassing moments wherein fiscal irresponsibility have bitten me on the ass and a few years ago, when I was emotionally secure and hadn’t discovered how terrible the feeling of being a robot going through the motions of God knows what just so you can have something a little cushier than the bare essentials to life itself was, those memories were my motivator. And then I went to Purdue for a year and discovered everything I hated, dissolved into a fugue of apathetic disgust, and knew what real ennui actually was. But hey, youth is made for mistakes.


* I can think of impolite ways of thinking of it, but I’m sure you wouldn’t want to hear any of them. Unless you would, in which case: tough cookies.

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