I always wondered about artists, and how their work must often be inspired by the people in their lives. What joy and pride it must bring someone to know that a beautiful love poem was penned in their name! And to an equal measure, what mixture of horror and sadness must accompany words about hate or betrayal.
I’ve written songs and poetry since I was in grade school, and my close friends often make fun of the fact that an overwhelming majority of my compositions are about happiness and love. In truth, it’s because I’ve often struggled with allowing myself to publish negative emotions about people.
What if they found out?
What might they think?
What would others think?
Those questions and fears have filled my mind as I’ve dragged so many recordings to the recycling bin and rewritten so many stanzas to be less incensed or more anonymous. It’s simply safer to work with generalized emotions or undirected irreverence.
I think it really comes down to anonymity.
When I look at a famous painting or read a well-known poem, I’m generally blessed with uncertainty regarding what or who inspired it, and – most importantly – I can remain comfortably certain that it’s not about me. So, while I may consume, deconstruct, and analyze to the nth degree, even if that analysis leads me on a revealing, introspective tour of my own psyche, I am free take it there myself; I am unbiased and unhindered in my consumption. If, on the other hand, I know for a fact or I may surmise that there is any reasonable possibility that the artist had me – whether consciously or subconsciously – in mind when he or she created something, then the analysis immediately jumps to myself. I’ll agonize over being misunderstood or misinterpreted by his or her creation, and whether or not others enjoy or agree with the piece will be inextricably tied to its (potentially dubious) relationship to me.
Perhaps such is merely the lot of an artist.
It’s great responsibility to wield, and I don’t yet know if I’m mature enough to cast such empathy (née self-consciousness) aside. Even when writing fiction, I fret that my acquaintances who read it might recognize what pieces and parts I stole from them and injected into my prose. I’m careful to choose names that don’t coincide or rhyme with those of folks I know (“her name was… Fenelope…”), and I consciously tweak personality quirks and idiosyncrasies such that they don’t precisely line up with their real-world counterparts. It’s terribly time-consuming, of debatable effectiveness, and it no doubt stifles what few creative juices I can wring from this form.
Maybe the secret is to become big in Japan. Where no one knows what the hell I’m talking about anyway.