I haven’t been able to put together a post for Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD) this year due to other commitments, but be sure to go check out the list of this year’s posts, compiled by Goldfish at Diary of a Goldfish. As with other years, I am sure that there will be many excellent and thought-provoking posts!
I’ve contributed to BADD in the past, so now may be as good a time as any to drop some links: a poem, a bingo card, the first bingo card (cross-posted at FWD; not for BADD, but perhaps necessary for context of card #2).
The reddish reflection here is from the sweatshirt I was wearing when I photographed this piece, and for some ungodly reason, I liked the effect enough to post the photo. As usual, click for a larger version.
[Description: Black and white painting of a bunch of random splotches, in the midst of which is a woman who stands uncomfortably while holding her right arm out to the side. Her arms and hands are composed of large, random shapes, her legs are thick black lines, and her feet are rectangles. She stares directly at the viewer, and does not appear to have a mouth.]
I’ve been trying to do some stand-alone line drawings recently, with mixed results. Here is one that I completed a few days ago that I quite like (as always, click for larger):
[Description: Photo of an ink on paper drawing with lots of random, grey ink splotches and splatters. On the right side, a figure (*~ARTISTIC~* black and white line drawing version of Annaham, the artist) stands in a large blob of grey, with a somewhat blank expression on her face. Her hands and arms are depicted as sharp, jagged claws.]
I will probably upload more of these when I can get access to a scanner, instead of having to settle for crappy laptop camera pics.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “And No More Shall We Part” (lyrics). I believe the above performance is from a French television show.
I am starting a new Tumblr/blog series for 2011! It is about songs that have somehow impacted my life, and why. I was going to write about entire albums, and then I realized that that would become a huge undertaking that I would end up never finishing. So: an intermittent series on songs, because many songs are bite-sized, aurally speaking, and manageable enough for me to write about and not feel like I’m giving other things (other tracks on an album, for example) short shrift.
I’ve been trying to write about this song, and what it means to me, for the past couple of days and have been mostly coming up blank. No More Shall We Part was the first Nick Cave & TBS album I bought, around early 2006 or so, after an internet friend, Sarah, had included “Do You Love Me (Part 1)” (which, strangely, is not on that album!) on a mix some years before, and I kept pressing the back button each time the track would end. I can’t remember the reason why I bought this album first; it may have been the first result on Amazon when I typed in “nick cave and the bad seeds,” or it may have had the highest rating on iTunes or something.
The “real” reason, though, is not important. Nick Cave’s music–despite the weird, sometimes off-putting reliance on the women-as-goddesses-or-evil-temptresses trope of some of his work (or, in the case of most of 1995’s Murder Ballads, as victims of homicide by men)–has meant a lot to me, and continues to. No More Shall We Part is my favorite album of his and the Bad Seeds.
I first heard this album–and this song, which was the one that really grabbed me–during a particularly difficult time in my life. Out of nowhere, I had started experiencing moderate to severe chronic pain and fatigue to go with it, and I had no idea what to do. None of the doctors I saw could figure out what was wrong with me. When I was tired or in too much pain to do very much (which was often), I would rest and listen to music. “And No More Shall We Part” was one of the songs that I listened to constantly; almost without fail, whenever I played it, I’d listen to it at least three or four times because it was just that affecting.
I don’t believe in God. Nick Cave, however, does, and is not shy about expressing this in his lyrics. “And No More Shall We Part” contains many references to God; though this specific aspect of the song did not grab me, something about the way he sings it absolutely did.
Lord, stay by me
Don’t go down
I’ll never be free
If I’m not free now
Lord, stay by me
Don’t go down
I never was free
What are you talking about?
I didn’t believe in God, then. I needed something, however, to get me through the worst of the pain, to remind me that I was going to be okay even if the doctors–if most people around me, to an extent–couldn’t see what was going on in my body. It’s hard to put into words, but Cave’s voice was that hand reaching through my headphones, assuring me that I would be okay, even if I felt alone and scared and hopeless and bad for having health problems–and, ultimately, even if I couldn’t see any answers on the immediate horizon.
[Originally posted on my Tumblr]
[Description: Line drawing of a woman in a bed, sitting up against the pillows as her eyes—popping out of her head—focus on her body parts, which have detached from their sockets and are floating around the room.]
[Warning for possibly triggering content regarding mental health, specifically depression.]
I’ve been reading a fair number of how-to creativity books (yeah, I know, creativity is not something you can “learn” from a book) recently in preparation for a long-term project, and one thing I have noticed about some of these books–and a lot of the “advice” floating around out there about creativity–is the notion of the “inner critic.” The inner critic, according to some Professional Creative Types, is the voice that tells you that you are not creative, that you can’t write, or draw, or paint, or accomplish whatever creative project you want to. The inner critic is supposed to stand in for everyone who’s told you that you are a crappy artist, that your creative pursuits aren’t good enough, and all of that fun stuff that apparently wasn’t there when you were a kid. And, in the course of becoming truly creative, you are supposed to silence your inner critic.
This got me thinking, however: What if that critic was there when you were a kid? What if the inner critic is, well, part of you, and you cannot “just silence” that part?
One thing that I really don’t talk about publicly (on the internet or off) is my history of major depression. There are many reasons as to why, and I think that those might best be saved for another post. However, there is something that really bugs me about the “inner critic” model of creativity: it does not take depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions into account. What if that voice in your head has been there for a while, and is an active part of your mental health issue? It’s not so easy to turn off that voice that tells you that you suck, or that your art or writing is a bunch of crap, or that you will never amount to anything when that voice is there because of a mental health condition.
There’s another assumption in writings about the importance of “turning off” the inner critic, which is that all children have a magical reserve of resilience and that is why they are so creative. These children simply don’t care what anyone else thinks, and the Creative Adult must recapture that sense of adventure by silencing the inner critic! It sounds so easy! But what of the depressed child, or the child with mental health issues? As someone who had depression issues as a kid — and still does — I question the supposedly “universal” applicability of this whole inner critic business, the assumption that it can be turned off like a damn light switch, after which we will all Recover Our Childlike Capacity For Creativity, or something.
I remember having my own Inner Critic as a kid, and it was not fun. Certainly, I did have years where I had that sense of Childlike Creativity and Wonder, but those were also interlaced by a voice in the back of my mind that would tell me awful things. And it never left, after a while. It would hiss: You do not belong. You are weak. Your bum leg is punishment for something, and you sure as hell aren’t going to “make up for it” with your stupid cartoons, give me a break! You think you’re going to be popular because of your cartoons? Because of your writing? Please. You are worthless, and also none of the other kids like you. Your art is just a hobby, nothing more.
Then, once the depression came on the scene, those little hissings became, well, much bigger. They’d been there when I was a kid, no doubt, but with major depression, they stuck in my brain like a particularly awful tape loop that just couldn’t be turned off. Things with my depression are much better now — as they have been for a few years — but I am always, always on the alert in case it comes back full-force. My depression not totally gone (nor do I expect it to be), but I manage it with care. And the “inner critic” that artsy self-help types slam? She’s still there, and I think she will be there permanently. The trick, for me, is learning to live with her instead of assuming that silencing her is an easy step.
[Originally published at FWD.]
[Image description: A raven-haired man wearing a black velvet suit and white shirt leans against a wall.]
First: LOOK AT THIS STYLISH MAN, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS BRIAN FERRY. He is SO STYLISH. I wish I could be half as stylish as he is. I have a black velvet blazer hiding in my closet, which I have been known to break out when I, too, wish to be stylish in the way that only a rocker from the 1970s can be, but have not yet found a pair of velvet pants to complete the look.
Second: While writing some of this, I realized that it might be helpful to have some actual examples of precisely what I mean when I say that Roxy Music is an amazing band, so here is an entirely separate post in which I share some of my favorite songs of theirs.
My favorite bit of music trivia ever is Roxy Music-related**: band member Brian Eno did not know how to play the keyboard before he joined Roxy Music. For reasons as to why this is completely amazing, look no further than Wikipedia’s page on Eno. He has gone on to have a lengthy, influential and successful music career even though he once joined a band, as its keyboard player, without knowing how to play that instrument.
I love Roxy Music and Brian Ferry not just for the music, but because they remind me that I can have an impact with my own work that, though it will most definitely not appeal to everyone, may have some sort of impact on someone. I am an indescribably crappy guitar player (mostly because fibromyalgia-related hand and arm pain prevent me from banging out anything other than a few chords). I am not a great singer. I will never be Ani DiFranco. I will never be Patti Smith, nor PJ Harvey, nor Tori Amos, nor Alanis Morissette, nor Beth Ditto, nor Me’shell Ndegeocello. These people are all talented, I am a fan of each of them, and their success is well-deserved; however, I will probably never approach that level of success, as the work I do is not in the getting-up-onstage-and-singing-in-front-of-people field.
Hell, I have a blog. Which I write on, and which I take extremely seriously. I write and draw a lot of stuff on various topics — most of this work has not been published (yet), or shown to other people (yet), and almost none of it has been the center of controversy or much attention (barring my work on that one thing).
If I may be philosophical and mildly tedious for a minute: Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry’s work remind(s) me is that there is a whole lot of good in just being whatever you are and, simultaneously, not knowing what you are doing all of the time (like Brian Eno and the whole not-knowing-how-to-play-the-keyboard-thing), and that it is okay to be “okay” at something as long as you love it. You do not have to be the greatest and most original band/singer ever to make an impact.
And, paradoxically, that is part of what makes Roxy Music such a great band.
Your weirdness, your originality, and your style do not have to be constantly calculated down to the very millisecond, or planned out in infintesimal detail, or boasted about on Twitter every ten seconds. There is room for those things to just develop and grow by themselves, if you let them. I think many segments of the entertainment industry–and, unfortunately, a lot of “creative” types–tend to forget this. Of course, part of that is how the “business” works, but for those of us who aren’t in the industry (but who are still in the age of Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook wall updates with instantly-emailed notifications), this can be difficult to remember.
But, it is worth remembering.
**[That is, other than the rumor that Tori Amos has $100,000 worth of “hand insurance” in case her hands are ever irrevocably injured. I am sure there is a source for this somewhere on the internet, but I haven’t quite found it yet. If any Tori fans have a citation for said factoid that proves or disproves this rumor, please feel free to leave it in the comments so that I can continue being lazy in regards to internet research.]