A friend asked me how I can show parts of my life that a lot of people think are too personal to share. I write about my life and I picture my home — office, kitchen, bedroom, etc. I hadn’t thought about it much. I was focused on words, pictures and light. For me, it was a writing or visual challenge. What it revealed about me was part of the deal. That’s what artists do, right? Reveal bits of themselves through their art, whatever it may be.
Still, it was a good question and got me thinking.
The willingness to stand naked in front of strangers, in front of the world, is at the core of being any kind of artist. If you can’t let the world really see you, you won’t create things that feel “true.” Honesty is an essential ingredient in connecting with people through any medium.
Years ago when I was just starting to write, my work was flat. I never understood what was wrong exactly, but I knew it wasn’t good. I persisted, endlessly submitting material to editors hoping someone would like one of my stories enough to publish it. One day, an editor took the time to tell me what she felt was wrong with my writing.
“You write,” she said, “As if you’re afraid your mother is going to read it.”
She had hit the nail on the head. I really was afraid my mother would read it. Literally. Moreover, I was afraid I’d hurt someone’s feelings or reveal a secret about myself I didn’t want known. My fear of emotional exposure completely blocked my writing, It was only after my mother and brother passed I finally wrote something honest.
When people tell you to write about what you know, they don’t mean merely you should write about familiar places and situations. They mean you should draw on your life experiences and feelings.
I’ll never be a world-class artist, but I know my best work — photographic or literary — has all come from someplace pretty deep inside me.
You can’t fake art. You’ve got to feel it.