The Heart of an Artist
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Ebb and Flow.
Artists wear their work like a second skin, and flinch when their art is not as cared for, particularly by someone important to them. And when their art is appreciated, they glow.
Whether our medium is paper, paint, pixels, or measures of music, we wear our art wrapped around our hearts like no other professions. It is a part of us, and it’s important that that part be as nurtured as any other of us.
I’ve often been criticized for decisions I’ve made or methods I’ve tried in my career as a negotiator. You know what? Fuck it. I don’t care what all the anal retentives say. I’ve just as often been handed awards for my negotiation work. You know what? Fuck that, too. (Unless it directly saves lives…that I care a bit more about.)
The point is, in my non-artistic work, it’s removed from my emotions, from my identity, from my self- worth. It’s funny that I’d think of it as separate from my identity because I have so often over the past decade or two put everything I had into my day job, and yet, it’s still not as up-close and personal as my identity as a writer. I am an amalgam of emotions and ideas, and my day job is more of just the latter, with no allowance for the former. (Angry female = out of control bitch; crying or compassionate female = out of control weakling.) I’m more of a whole person as a writer because I can indulge my creative and analytical side at once.
I’ve heard writers over the years complain (almost exclusively women) that their significant others wouldn’t read their books, wouldn’t discuss plots except to tell them what they should be writing, and had no interest at all in their artistic/creative world except for the income. Most of the male writers I know seem to get tons of loving support from their wives and girlfriends, who handle all the mundane and sometimes the business side of their lives to make time for the writer to (gasp!) write. Their work is viewed as important and fulfilling whereas my female writer pals are more likely to have their work treated as a hobby or even as competition by their spouses. I realize it’s not that way in every case, but in the majority of what I’ve seen as a published writer for the past decade, this rule holds true.
Some writers have told me that it doesn’t matter to them that their husbands never read their work. A few have told me that repeatedly. I don’t believe them. These aren’t businesswomen who just happen to be putting their expertise into a book as a different venue to disseminate their ideas. These are writers with writers’ blood and writers’ hearts. There’s a difference in the writer who is an artist at heart and the businessperson who’s simply writing a book.
I don’t believe them because it was too important to me that the people I loved appreciate my writing. They didn’t have to read every word. They didn’t have to be fans of romance or science fiction or women’s action adventure or spiritual musings. But once in a great while, it would have made my heart soar to hear a kind word about my writing, to hear that they’d actually read the book and liked a plot point or a turn of a phrase or something a character did resonated with them or the ending made them cry or they laughed out loud while reading my book in a public place. I heard all those things from strangers, but very, very rarely from the people in my closest circles.
And that hurt. It hurt terribly that my ex liked to display my books publicly and proudly, but he’d never read them. Even when he claimed he was trying to be supportive of my writing and to like it, it still took eons to get him to read a 30-page critically acclaimed anthology story. I hate having to beg someone to be supportive of something that means so much to me when they’re telling me how hard they’re trying to save our marriage. I learned in 1993 at a little Mexican restaurant in Niceville that I couldn’t excitedly discuss a potential plot, especially a suspense novel heavy on body count. One little “Who’d want to read that?!” stopped my plotting and my writing of that manuscript, even though I’d already written 100 pages of it and had an editor in NYC who wanted to see it pronto. If my life partner hated it, why would anyone else care for it? Not that he was required to love it, but surely he could have found something positive say other than, “Do you want me to lie to you?”
After I’d filed for divorce, he read more of my work than he did during our entire marriage…and proceeded to bludgeon me with it because he couldn’t separate fact from fiction in a book I’d written a decade before. His friends, with their little notes dropped to me, were best at reflecting his opinions of my work as “useless” and “pathetic.” It’s not that I didn’t already know how he felt about such an important part of me, but since they’d never read my books, I knew where their opinions came from.
My daughters are just the opposite. They’re everything I could hope for when it comes to loving support. Aislinn, while too young to read my stories, has heard the plots on long car trips. Shannon has devoured my action- adventure novels, loved Dark Revelations, loved Eye of the Serpent, helped me plot out Lilah’s story. She hasn’t read everything I’ve written but she “gets” it. The evidence shines in her eyes when we talk.
By dredging this up now, I’m not even complaining about my ex. Not anymore. Heaven knows, he (and his mom) has brought more local readers to my blog and journals than anyone else in the geographical area, by sheer unhappy word of mouth. Ironic, yes. So it’s not really a complaint against him anymore but rather a statement of what I need in future relationships.
I won’t repeat this aspect in a new relationship, either in a romantic relationship or with new platonic friends. If they don’t “get” my writing, then they won’t “get” me, and I choose not to surround myself with people who are not encouraging of my dreams or accepting of such a huge part of who I am.