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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Be Mused : Some Refreshing Honesty in Order

Be Mused

Some Refreshing Honesty in Order

Dear Muse,

As a supposedly creative person, I am stuck feeling that everything I do is wonderful AND that everything I do is crap — not unlike the pointless futility of an ant arranging little grains of quartz on a beach. And, yes, I know that little grains of sand irritate the oyster to produce a pearl, but what does that matter? And why should I bother? — the ant and the oyster

What? Pointless futility? Says who? In defense of worker ants everywhere, I must point out that they are constantly on guard defending the colony against enemies, searching for food, and nursing the young. Their efforts are vital to their survival — and that of future generations, too. It just doesn't look that way from your perspective. Now as to the mollusks, I suspect they care nothing for the pearls they create. You must realize that there are always plenty of ways to see things — your own talent (or lack of talent) included.

It looks as if you are at a fork in the road of your creative destiny. If you are very talented but also continually underconfident, you might choose the path that leads to an Emily Dickinson sort of life. Only a few of her poems were published during her lifetime and those were without her consent. But after her death, some 1800 poems were discovered bundled together in Emily's top dresser drawer. They were subsequently edited and published in five volumes to great acclaim.

If, on the other hand, you are not actually very talented but you compensate with thunderous overconfidence, you could take the other path. The one that leads to, I am so sorry, Andrew Dice Clay. You may remember him as the driven, abrasive comic celebrated in the 1980s, but where is he now?

Rather, I think it's time to forge a new path. You will start by seeking the objective opinions of your peers. Please note that you cannot rely on the judgment of your friends or family nor even that of someone you just met. Social conventions almost always stand in the way of the truth. You need the equivalent of a poetry slam.

For the uninitiated, a poetry slam is an interesting cross between a garden-variety poetry reading and an episode of Springer. The crowd is encouraged to shame bad poets off the stage as warranted, and those cries of "You suck!" have had a refreshing effect on many an artist.

You don't indicate what your creative field is, but the poetry slam concept can be appropriated for all occasions. If you're a musician in hiding, it's time to play out. Pick the rowdiest bar or a busy street corner in a new city for some real honesty. Maybe you're a visual artist? No problem. Just hang your show, have a fancy opening complete with those little skewered cheese cubes and some framboise — and be sure to have a friend don the black turtleneck in your place. He pretends to be you, the Great Artist, and you slink around in the crowd and ask strangers what they think of this guy's art.

I guarantee you the wavering between "Am I any good?" and "God, am I ever great!" is bound to stop. You may find your confidence bolstered or you could discover that you have more in common with Andrew Dice Clay than you ever thought possible. •

© 2001 Susan M. Brackney. All rights reserved.

Susan M. Brackney Need a little help finding your way on the road less traveled? Susan M. Brackney, author of The Lost Soul Companion will try to solve your creative quandaries. More »