Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Creating (Loudly)

I started this belly-aching post, all about how I just don't feel like doing what I should do (i.e., embracing my nemesis, Early Morning, and overcoming my recent hatred of working out). And then I realized that it was really getting me nowhere, and that you all must be mighty tired of hearing me complain for the last few days....weeks? I hope not weeks. Anyway, I had to change the direction of the post, and I'm struggling to change the direction of my thoughts and inject some motivation into my lazy self. So I thought, instead, that I would write about this beautiful book I've been reading, as the contents of said book have been banging around my head for a few days.

Let me read you the back cover:
Silences [by Tillie Olsen] draws on the lives, letters, diaries, and testimonies of many writers, and on the author's own life, to examine the needs and work of creation, and those circumstances that obstruct or silence it. Circumstances--which include one's sex, economic class, color, and the times and generation into which one is born--crucially determine whether creative capacity is used and developed, or impaired and lost.

I'm only a few pages in, and already there are several quotes I could transcribe here. But the message is one I can sympathize with. There are plenty of creative things I enjoy. There are just a couple of creative things that I passionately love to do.

Of course, there's photography. I realize I haven't actually written much about why I love photography. Part of why I don't write about is simple insecurity. At the back of my mind is the nagging question, "What if someone reads this and says, 'How can she claim to love it so? She's not very good at it.'" I know, I know--my imagination is mean to me. But I'm going to be brave and say: I like to notice the secret stuff. I like catching things that aren't so obvious. I like photography because I like to look for beautiful things. I like to preserve things that are significant to me. And I love the look on someone's face when they realize, "Oh! That's how you see me? That's me?" I like helping someone see their own beauty. Now that I say it, it almost sounds shallow, and I'm halfway regretting writing about it. (And that's what makes me silent in this particular area....what if someone says I'm not that good? What if I'm just stuck in a rut and doing the same thing over and over and don't really have something interesting to contribute?) There's probably more to it, but my introspective powers fail me at the moment. Moving on.....

Once upon a time, I played the cello. I started when I was 11, and stopped when Phill and I were married (seven years of playing), because we couldn't afford my phenomenal teacher, we were moving, and I was tired and wanted a break. I haven't had lessons since, and I've only taken the beautiful thing out of its case a handful of times in the seven years we've been married. I tell myself it's okay, that I have three small children, that this isn't the season for it. But quietly and painfully I wonder if I've turned my back on a gift, even when my memories of it are at once frustrated and joyful. Do you know what it's like to try and make a beautiful sound from something somewhat unwilling? Something that has the capacity to replicate a cat's shriek, but also the ability to sound like the most beautiful voice you've heard? I still remember the disappointment when my technique suffered or my mind was too tired or my hands needed better muscle memory. I remember sometimes wanting to throw that beautiful cello across the room, feeling that I just shouldn't touch it because our cooperation was faulty. It is a tumultuous relationship, my cello and I. Because while I remember those frustrations clearly, and still feel shamefully inadequate the few times I chance to take it out of its case, another part of me remembers the moments when something good would happen--technique, my ear, my fingers, my mind, my emotions--when all would work in harmony to create a perfect sound and eventually a finished, polished piece. I wonder how I could dare to pretend that I'm not ridiculously, hopelessly, inevitably in love with the art of making music. And I wonder how it is that everyone who knows me doesn't necessarily know about this aspect of me. How could I neglect something that was once such an essential part of me? The guilt can make me sick, if I let it. And in my fear of touching the cello again and hearing my awful, seven-years-off technique ringing through tortured notes, I am paralyzed. I hate the disappointment; I don't know if lessons/necessary practicing will get me back to where I was. Isn't it vicious? So a part of me misses that. But the bigger part won't let me touch it again. (The paralysis of perfectionism again. Wait a while, it makes a re-appearance.)

And now, my third, perhaps most precious, passion. The scariest one, because it's the one at which I most want to succeed. I love to write. I love to write something well, and read it, and feel the glow of having done my best. I love when I write something that makes people think, feel, talk, dream. I want to publish a book, and I have hopes that it will be loved by those who love me most. I want to say something good, say something different, say something that makes life a little sweeter. And yet, I'm silent.

Not one chapter.

Not a single page of a story that has a possibility of continuing.

Just my blog--which is good, because I'm writing, but not so good, because I'm hiding; hiding and silent. I'm too afraid to write and mess up. I told Phill last night on the phone that I'm afraid to write something I love and have it received badly. He reminded me that I have no control over others' reactions, and that I ought to write just because I love to write. (He's right. Write.) I read something--shoot, where was it? that said if you want to write, then write with all your knowledge and love, and write as if you are writing to the people who love you best. I suppose that at this moment, all I'm lacking is a certain direction for this "book" I have floating around in my head somewhere--an embryo of a book. I can't claim that I don't write more because of my kids. That's just not true, because as I've written this post, which I think is cohesive and understandable, I have had to get up no less than seven times to either tear my children apart or change a diaper or hug. I can work around interruptions. I just like to tell myself I can't, because then my procrastination is justified.

This book is amazing; it makes me contemplative and it makes me burn with a desire to write and make music and take photos and all sorts of other things that I tend to push down when I'm feeling fearful.

Maybe since I've written this post, I can't deny that I feel this way? And won't be so silent anymore?


MAG said...

Man, I hear you, I feel you! It took me years to tell anyone I even liked to write because I was so scared of people thinking I'm not very good at it. But admiting that I like to write is one of the best things I've ever done because I've been able to grow as a writer ten times faster because people follow up with me on how it's going and help keep me motivated. I've still got a loooong way to go, but I'm so enjoying the journey and learning to try not to care what other people think or how they evaluate my skills. It's made all the difference. I try to remember that fear is not of God and it doesn't get a person very far, if anywhere.

Anyway, I loved this post because I just feel like I can relate!

And for the record, I think you are both a beautiful and talented writer and photographer! I love coming here. Thanks. :)

Kristy said...

Love this post...I love all your posts...can I just say I love you? You are so great. Play your cello. Please? That is my favorite instrument in the whole world. One day I think I might try to learn and it won't be pretty...but it's your passion...just do it. Your kids will love it and you will love it. We also need to set up another time for photos...

I'm going to have to read this book.

leslie the licorice stick lady said...

I'm not much of a photographer, but I've learned a bunch about it from being married to Dave, and I try and enjoy it, even if I'm not very good or have fancy equipment. I am not a writer by any means but I have had those moments of inspiration and have really enjoyed it. I write mostly to keep a record of my life and too let go of feelings. I don't do it to show any skill, but just for me. If it's not well done, too bad. Period.
As far as music....well, honey, here is something deeply, deeply, dear to my heart. Like the other art forms, it must be nurtured to stay alive. Rae, remember the time we played a duet together in Sacrament meeting? We even got off a little, but no one noticed except us? I remember how nervous you were, and so was I, but I want to tell you, I have always remembered that duet, out of the many I've done. YOU HAVE A TALENT! You sounded beautiful to me. The greatest cause of fear in this world is what people think. You just have to push that aside and do what you love. There's no other way around it. Sure there will be those that are more skilled or sound 10 times better, but no one can make your music except you.
Dave told me last night that my music is part of our family and that he couldn't even to begin to let me let it go. He gives me a night a week to go play with a community orchestra and though I don't get a lot of socializing out of that night with other girls, I do get music. That gives me enough relief to keep me going in life.
Play your cello, and write and read and shoot lots of photos! Creativity is putting knowledge out in your own beautiful way! Keep it alive!

Lara said...

I agree with kristy. Just pick up the cello and do it. Sure, it will be rusty at first (have I ever told you how rusty my singing chops were when I first moved to Cedar after 3 years of only singing hymns at church?), but you'll find your way soon enough. I'd love to find some sort of cello/vocal duet to do with you.

We are kindred spirits. Photography, music, three great loves as well. Sounds like an awesome book you are reading.

Lunch on Saturday: Is Wingers fine with you? It's down by Target, right?

Heidi said...

Too many thoughts in response to summarize at the moment but keep writing. And shooting those moments that you can capture like no one else. And I didn't know you played! But play. We are all imperfect in our talents but passion keeps us going as we strive through this journey. Passion softens imperfection. :)

So grateful to have the chance to know and love you!

Kate said...

I DO know that you enjoy making music even though I didn't know you played the cello. That is awesome. I love your writing. You always have a great way of saying things with just the right words. I hope you give yourself a chance if not just because you enjoy it and for no other reason. Great blog and great writing.

Pam (Haslem) Dana said...

I love your writing.. you should for sure write a book.

Kelly said...

You have got to be kidding me! 2 more talents unfolded in the mystery of Rachel. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
I am ridiculously proud of you for revealing your fears. So many things are missed out on because of fear--believe me, I know! Silly, gifted Rachel... why are you hiding your talents?
You have a beautiful cello in your possession!? I would love to hear a squeaky version of Hot Cross Buns... ahh, that takes me back to my own violin days. ;)
My parents hocked my violin after it gathered 10 years of dust--oh well, at least I can't feel guilty about not playing it! j/k :D
p.s. girls night-Tuesday?

Qait said...

That' exactly how I feel about harp.
It's hard to go back when I used to be better. I can't even count how many times I wished I could just play like the best virtuoso in the world (magically, practice-less-ly). I even feel bad sometimes telling people how long I've played because it seems like I should be better than I am after FOURTEEN years! Granted, four of those I didn't play, and I had to start over at age 12. Sometimes I even feel guilty for having the prestige of being a teacher and playing in the symphony. Deep in my weakened, softened fingers, I have a mound of talent that has even astounded ME. That's what hurts the most--right now, it's inaccessible because I have to work down through the layers to get there. :\
I will practice, and you will practice. Even just once a week. And we'll talk about it!
I LOVE YOU!!! By the way...I was often jealous because you brought such a beautiful, throbbing voice out of the cello. No one I've met can play it like you did. I don't care how professional they are. I know, I bet your music seemed especially beautiful to me because I knew how much you endured to get there. We both had furious fits with practicing. Sometimes I got angry that I COULDN'T make the harp produce an ugly sound to match my anger! I'd whip the roughest gliss across the strings (and Mom would tell me to leave it alone for once), and it still sounded cool. >:(

carajean said...

I love the new blog skin and I can't help but notice how nicely it coordinates with my Etsy widget. Tee Hee. What I tell myself when I am feeling this way (feeling sad about all the things I wish I could do and or be good at but don't have the time to do right now) is that SOMEDAY I will be able to do them. I have to cling to that hope. I plan on learning how to play the drums when I'm about 65. I think you are already doing some very wonderful things with your time right now, and some day it will be really great to know you have found time to play your cello again.

Kelly said...

Hi Rae!
I hope you get this soon... I just found out today that a friend of Phill's died this morning. Laura Noall. So dang sad. She had been battling lupus. She was actually a great friend of mine. We grew up in the same ward and did all the same sports. I was just thinking of all the good times i had with her when I remembered she had a crush on Phill. :) I think they went to a girls pref dance together...? He'll have to tell you the story-- it made me laugh. Actually, I am just going to call you.

Jenn said...

RAAAAAAAAAAE... I am craving a post.